by Lynn on May 3, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Theatre Centre, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Nicolas Billon
Directed by Ravi Jain
Set and Costumes by Joanna Yu
Lighting by Kimberly Purtell
Sound by Richard Feren
Cast: Kawa Ada
Claire Calnan
Christine Horne

Iceland is a firecracker of a play. It’s about the lust, lure and grip of money on three people who are connected because of it.

The Story. Kassandra is an Estonian student studying at the University of Toronto. Her family—her mother and brother—are still in Estonia. Her brother has a terrible gambling problem and her mother can’t help pay her son’s debts. Kassandra decides to help in the only easy way there is to make money—she becomes a call girl. She met a fellow Estonian who is in the trade and gets her the ‘jobs.’ One ‘John’ is Halim.

Halim is a high end real estate agent. He believes in the joy and power of money. He loves what it can buy. It can buy the condo he owns and is now flipping it. Money can buy some time with a call girl for which he will pay a lot of money without thought. Kassandra is the call girl.

Anna is an anxious, nervous, pious woman who used to own the condo that Halim now owns. She is an innocent victim in this real estate game and is hurt and angry at the loss of her home and confronts Halim.

The Production. This is the third engagement of Iceland with the original cast. It first played as part of Summerworks in 2012, then at Factory Theatre in 2013. The production is still as explosive as ever.

Director Ravi Jain has created a devilishly simple, compelling production that illuminates the effect that money has on the three characters. Each character tells her/his story in turn. There are three stylish, leather director’s chairs. Two are upstage facing each other; one is downstage centre facing the audience. The person doing the talking sits in the ‘focus’ chair, facing the audience. The other two sit facing each other but not engaging, silent, in muted light.

Christine Horne plays Kassandra as a woman who is calm as she gives her story. She sits up in the chair. Her legs are crossed. She wears a form-fitting dress. She is a bit nervous in the telling, perhaps a bit resigned to the trouble. She is not high strung. She is savvy; knows how to get out of tight spots and is a survivor.

Halim, as played by Kawa Ada is the master of his own domain. He’s in a smart suit. He revels in his abilities. He knows how money talks and he flashes his for the best results. Ada sits, perhaps slumps, in the chair with his legs spread, a sly smile on his face. He knows what he’s doing. He’s talking to us with sex. He subtly tilts his pelvis up for effect. He is joyous and ruthless. And he is compelling.

As Anna Claire Calnan is in a dress, her knees are tight together. She grips the arms of the chair. Her voice quivers with anxiety and later rage as she tells the story of losing her home. If she says a rude word she punishes herself. This is one repressed woman.

All three performances give a different focus on money; how it binds and ties and even strangles.

Comment. In a flippant exchange, Anna asks how Halim can take a person’s home without conscience and Halim replies with, “Blame Iceland.” One can assume he is referring to the collapse of Iceland’s major banks which lead to a crashing of Iceland’s economy. (Michael Moore, in his wonderful film, Where to Invade Next notes the major banks that collapsed were run by men. The one small bank to survive was run by women.) Recent news that Iceland’s Prime Minister resigned over the Panama Papers scandal suggests that the message of Iceland is timelier than ever.

If you didn’t see Iceland at Summerworks in 2012 or Factory Theatre in 2013, don’t miss it now.

Why Not Theatre Presents:

Opened: April 25, 2016.
Closes: May 14, 2016.
Cast: 3; 1 man, 2 women.
Running Time: 1 hour.

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1 Cheryl Hawkes May 7, 2016 at 9:59 pm

Hi Lynn. ICELAND was at Factory Theatre in March, 2013, after its success at 2012 Summerworks. Same cast and director. Nina Lee Aquino grabbed it first.