Gather: Stories in Nature — room to grow

publicity photo for Gather: Stories in Nature

Sharing stories outside is a good idea.
(Photo of Shayna Jones and Cameron Peal by Kathryn Nickford)

Maybe the best way to see these two short scripts is as seedlings.

In Gather: Stories in Nature, Shayna Jones and Cameron Peal both perform solo plays they’ve written about their relationships to the earth. In a (mostly) productive decision, their work is being presented beneath the trees in Queen Elizabeth Park.

Jones’s work is currently the sturdier of the two. It’s about a woman named Miriam who’s struggling in an oppressive marriage to a guy named Clinton. Early on, Clinton complains that Miriam is getting too independent: “That’s what I get for letting you discover yourself.” [Read more…]

The Boy in the Moon: gazing at him

Publicity photo for The Boy in the Moom

Ian (Marcus Youssef) with a photo of Walker. (Photo by Mark Halliday, Moonrider Productions)

Theatre for grown-ups. I’m grateful.

This version of The Boy in the Moon is playwright Emil Sher’s adaptation of Ian Brown’s memoir about raising Walker, his severely disabled son, with his wife Johanna Schneller.

It’s tough. Describing Walker at birth, the character Ian says, “His body doesn’t want to live.” Walker is eventually diagnosed with Cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome (CFC), a rare genetic disorder that leaves him unable to speak or to toilet or feed himself. When he gets a little older, Walker starts to hit himself so hard that his body is black and blue.

The great strength of The Boy in the Moon is that it is relentlessly clear-eyed, not sentimental or magical in the manner of so many popular entertainments about milder forms of disability. Both parents love Walker tenaciously and endure endless sleepless nights and marriage-corroding stress to care for him. In the play’s opening, Ian’s description of tube-feeding Walker and changing his diaper is enough to banish any expectations of romanticism.

The fundamental tension in the play is between love and survival, love and the capacity to go on. “I began to ask myself if it wouldn’t be braver to kill myself,” Ian says, “and take him with me.”

There is also brightness, much of it involving Walker’s big sister Hayley. Walker delights in her dancing. In one of the most moving passages in the script, Hayley challenges the underpinning of her dad’s book and, by implication, the play. She doesn’t want her father or anybody else to presume to speak for her brother. “No one can speak for Walker,” she says. In this production, actor Synthia Yusuf delivers that simple line with such protectiveness she left me with the sense that Hayley may be the one who sees Walker most clearly. [Read more…]

The Ridiculous Darkness: formally startling, movingly inclusive

Alley Theatre is producing The Ridiculous Darkness with Neworld Theatre.

Emilie Leclerc is givin’ it in The Ridiculous Darkness. (Wendy D Photography)

Don’t go to The Ridiculous Darkness if you’re looking for a standard-issue night at the theatre, or even if you’re only interested in fully successful productions. Do go if you’re up for an aesthetic adventure.

The provenance of this show is complicated. It started out as a German radio play by Wolfram Lotz that satirizes both Francis Ford Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness, the Joseph Conrad novel upon which the film is based. Daniel Brunet translated the radio play into English and Daniel Arnold has adapted it—freely—for the stage. [Read more…]

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