by Lynn on September 23, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Hart House Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Wajdi Mouawad
Translated by Shelley Tepperman
Directed by Ken Gass
Set and Costumes by Jung-Hye Kim
Lighting by André du Toit
Sound by Wayne Kelso
Cast: Augusto Bitter
Danny Ghantous
Madeleine Heaven
Erik Mrakovicic
Kwaku Okyere
Cassidy Sandler
Angela Sun
Harrison Tanner

An interesting production of Wajdi Mouawad’s play about memory, the search for oneself and displacement performed by a new company of recent graduates from various theatre schools.

The Story. Wilfred is making love to a young woman when he gets the call that says his father has died. He is unsettled because he hardly knew his father and yet he is grieving. He decides to take the body back to his father’s home country. Playwright Wajdi Mouawad deliberately does not specify the home country. In light of recent refugee stories it could be any country. When he gets to his father’s village he’s told the cemetery is full and besides it’s only available to citizens of the town. Wilfred takes the body and moves off to find another place. As he makes the mythic journey carrying his father, trying to bury him, Wilfred attracts other wanderers also trying to find their homelands or at least a place they can call home. He is guided by his father who speaks to him as if he was still alive.

The Production. As is fitting for a play about a long journey, Jung-Hye Kim’s set is of a long white board walk of sorts that snakes from across upstage down the stage right side of the stage to the lip. Characters journey up and back and along the top as part of their journey. The writing seems like an epic poem although it’s not written in poetic form. The language is repetitive and lyrical but the images of wandering in the dialoge are quite startling.

This is a cast of young actors recently graduated from drama programs at Ryerson University, the University of Toronto, and the National Theatre school. The actors are part of an initiative of the Canadian Rep Theatre called ENSEMBLE: Canadian Youth Theatre. The most experienced of them is Danny Ghantous as Wilfred. He burst on to the scene in A Line in the Sand last season and continues his strong work in Tideline. As Wilfred, he is boyishly irreverent initially but then gets deeper and deeper into the task of finding a place to bury his father. Director Ken Gass guides his actors with sensitivity and a firm sense of establishing the relationships. While Gass is the Artistic Director of Canadian Rep Theatre, he is also a professor at the University of Toronto Drama Centre, so would know many of the members of the company from his work teaching at the University of Toronto. While it’s heartening to provide these young actors work, they need more work to get them on their way.

Comment. Playwright Wajdi Mouawad knows about growing up in a war-torn country, He was born in Lebanon. He moved with his family in 1977 to France and eventually came to live in Quebec. Tideline is part of a tetralogy; Blood Promises: Tideline Scorched, and Forest. It’s interesting to see a character from one of the plays pop up as the same character but in a different play. For example, a character known as “The Woman Who Sings,” is a woman who appears first in Tideline and then Scorched.

Mouawad’s plays are long and dense. This one could do with tightening and cutting—I know that’s sacrilegious. The repetitions after a time do grate. The effort is noble, however.

Produced in association with Canadian Rep Theatre and ENSEMBLE: Canadian Youth Theatre/Théâtre Jeunesse Canadien

Plays until Oct. 1, 2016.

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