by Lynn on February 26, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Factory Theatre, Mainspace, Toronto, Ont.

Written by David French
Directed by Ravi Jain
Cast: Kawa Ada
Mayko Nguyen
Ania Soul (musician)

A thoughtful, beautifully acted production that makes you look at the play anew and is lovely in almost every way except for an annoying and unnecessary musical accompaniment.

The Story. It’s a moonlit night in a small community in Newfoundland, 1926. Jacob Mercer has returned from being away in Toronto for a year. He has come back to woo Mary Snow, a young woman, now 17, he left without a good-bye or a letter in all that time. It won’t be easy. Mary is engaged to be married in a month to the son of a prosperous family. And she’s furious with Jacob for leaving her. Jacob is confident, a charmer, a poet and a man who holds a grudge. They are what the other needs. Will they be able to drop their anger and disappointments and have a meeting of their minds and hearts.

The Production. Salt-Water Moon is part of the Factory Theatre’s ‘naked season.’ This means there is no set to speak of; no fancy costumes and no pyrotechnics to dazzle us with. There are just the moving words of David French’s semi-autobiographical play; Ravi Jain’s exquisite, sensitive direction and vision and the beautiful acting of Mayko Nguyen as feisty Mary Snow, and Kawa Ada, as the smiling charmer, Jacob Mercer. There is also a musician, Ania Soul.

Ania Soul sits on a stool stage right, with a music stand in front of her. She sings some mournful songs while playing the guitar before the play begins, perhaps to get us in the mood.

There are about 30 glass bowls arranged around the stage floor. Mayko Nguyen as Mary Snow, kneels down to light a candle in each bowl with long stick matches from a tube she holds. When she is finished she looks off in the distance. Behind her is a man. He is Jacob Mercer.

Ania Soul reads the extensive stage directions that playwright David French has provided for his play. In the first scene Soul reads the directions describing the house where Mary is living and working; the dress that she is wearing and the three piece suit that Jacob is wearing and the suitcase he carries tied up with a rope.

The reality in this production is that nothing in the stage directions are depicted on the stage. There is no house. Mary Snow does not wear a nice dress. She in fact is barefoot and wears jeans and a top. Jacob Mercer does not wear a suit and does not carry a suitcase. He wears pants, a shirt and boots. Because both Mary and Jacob reference the Constellations, all the candles on the floor represents stars in the night sky. The two tell the story; spill their guts and hope the other does the right thing by them.

Comment. Director Ravi Jain is not only presenting this beloved play in a pared down production, he is also expecting us to have faith, suspend our disbelief and imagine a house, clothes and attitudes described in the play but not seen on the stage. With his sensitive direction and the commitment of his gifted cast, there are also no Newfoundland accents. Does it matter? No. Does it matter that the cast of Kawa Ada as Jacob and Mayko Nguyen as Mary, are actors one would not expect to be in a play about typical Newfoundlanders? No.

My one concern is that the play and the actors are strong enough to tell the story without the unnecessary, annoying and intrusive incidental guitar music played by Ania Soul.

Salt-Water Moon is a bitter-sweet love story of a man who is fighting to win back his girl. He hurt her with his lack of consideration, and she’s not making it easy for him. That’s a story that knows no boundary of race, religion, skin colour, ethnicity, etc. It’s a story we all know in our own hearts. It’s a late Valentine’s present from Ravi Jain and his cast.

Presented by Factory Theatre:

Opened: Feb. 25, 2016.
Closes: March 13, 2016.
Cast: 2; 1 man, 1 woman
Running Time: 90 minutes.

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