Short Reviews: The Enchanted Loom, Still/Falling

by Lynn on November 24, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer


The Enchanted Loom

At the Factory Studio Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Suvendrini Lena
Directed by Marjorie Chan
Choreographed by Nova Bhattacharya
Set, props and costumes by Joanna Yu
Projections and video by Cameron Davis
Lighting by Arun Srinivasan
Sound by Suba Sankaran
Cast: Kawa Ada
Sam Kalilieh
Zorana Sadiq
Asha Vijayasingham
Peter Bailey
Peatriz Pizano

An intriguing play about keeping and forgetting memories, emotional trauma and the perils of the Civil War in Sri Lanka by Suvendrini Lena, a neurologist and first time playwright. An honourable effort.

The Story. Thangan was captured and tortured during the Sri Lankan civil war. To get his release so the family could move to Canada his wife Sevi had to make a terrible decision. The results are that the memories of what happened have prayed on all their minds. The damage done is emotional, physical and psychological. How they cope is the meat of the play.

The Production. Director Marjorie Chan starts the production with a bang by taking playwright Suvendrini Lena’s overlapping dialogue of several characters and has each of the characters deliver this dialogue with urgency, conviction and clarity. For example Kanan is a medical researcher focusing on how memory works. As played by Kawa Ada, he circles the playing space quickly and methodically reciting the complex procedure of memory, as if in a trance to get it right. His father, Thangan, his mother Sevi and his sister Kavitha all have their individual thoughts with their own intricate path across and around Joanna Yu’s white, pristine set. It’s a hospital operating room in one scene; a room in Thankgan’s home, a jungle, a jail.

Dilemmas are explored one being how to excise a haunting memory; another being who do you chose if you have to chose one person over another in a situation. At the centre is Thangan, played with compassion and understanding by Sam Kalilieh.

Comment. Playwright Suvendrini Lena has written about what she knows. She is a neurologist of Sri Lankan descent. She uses both worlds to inform each other. Perhaps the references to neurology are too complex for one not versed in that subject; and perhaps there is not enough information on the Sri Lankan civil war for those not versed in it to understand the complexity of the subject. Honourable effort, though.

A Cahoots Theatre Production in association with Factory Theatre.

First performance: Nov. 5, 2016.
Closes: Nov. 27, 2016.
Cast: 6; 3 men, 3 women
Running Time: 2 hours


At Young People’s Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Rachel Aberle
Directed by Patrick McDonald
Set by Ken MacDonald
Video designed by Cameron Fraser
Cast: Olivia Hutt

A sobering play about anxiety and depression in young teens, beautifully acted by Olivia Hutt.

The Story. Nina and her family have just moved across the country to Vancouver. While her mother likes to present this as an adventure for her and her brother, Nina looks at this as a disaster. She has to leave everything that is familiar: her school, friends; places, everything.

She attends the new school with trepidation but soon fits in. She meets friends. She joins a drama club and writes scenes for the group. She has an attentive boyfriend. She has everything that would seemingly make her happy. But she’s not. She’s anxious, depressed, in dangerous mental health. She tries to talk herself into how lucky she is but matters spiral out of control.

The Production. Designer Ken MacDonald has created a set that is both simple in its efficiency and suggestive of an unsettled mind. A chair on a tilt is affixed to a wall, other items are on the wall as well. Two comfortable chairs are on a wildly designed floor. These represent the chairs of Nina’s therapist.

Nina bounds on stage in the ‘uniform’ of the young teen: skinny, torn jeans, hoody, trainers. She is slim, agile, animated. Olivia Hutt plays Nina with a specific body language. Her knees are often tight together when sitting; she hunches in her seat, closing herself off perhaps for protection. Ms Hutt also plays six other characters from Nina’s mother (a more relaxed, mature stance), her younger brother she refers to as “the creep” with awkward, boyish moves, various friends and even Nina’s boyfriend. Each character is distinct, clear and perfectly convincing including the specific voice. But it’s the performance of Nina, desperate to be in control that grips us. At times Ms Hutt’s performance as Nina is so vivid and compelling the young audience watching this shifts in discomfort and whispers their concerns. This is a raw performance and it’s hit its mark with this audience.

Director Patrick McDonald (also the Artistic Director of Green Thumb Theatre that created this show) keeps the pace driving for this play. You get the sense of Nina’s life spinning out of control.

Comment. Green Thumb Theatre specializes in creating and producing plays that address the issues affecting the youth of today. They are direct, hard-hitting and don’t shy away from telling the brutal truth. Green Thumb Theatre and Young People’s Theatre give voice to young people and their concerns where others might not care. Playwright Rachel Aberle has used her own issues with mental health in the past to write Still/Falling. She has something to say. Important work.

Young People’s Theatre presents a Green Thumb Production.

Opened: Nov. 33, 2016.
Closes: Dec. 9, 2016.
Cast: 1 woman.
Running Time: 50 minutes.

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