by Lynn on January 11, 2020

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Harbourfront Centre, Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written and directed by Beatriz Pizano

With texts written and performed by:

Laura Arabian,

Brefny Caribou

Janis Mayers

Rosalba Martinni

Michelle Polak

Sofia Rodriguez

Rhoma Spencer

Liliana Suarez

Scenic, projection design by Trevor Schwellnus

Lighting design by Rebecca Vandevelde

Sound and original composition by Brandon Miguel Valdivia

Costumes by Vanessa Magic

The Solitudes  uses the women of the book: “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez as its inspiration and how these women survived in a man’s world.

The Solitudes is written and directed by Beatriz Pizano with texts written and performed by the company from their own life-stories.   In The Solitudes we hear the stories of Indigenous women or their families who were born here or came from elsewhere: Lebanon, Italy, Mexico, Columbia, Trinidad and Tobago and Montreal by way of Auschwitz.

We hear of their struggles they endured to get here and fit in. There are stories of rage, resilience, fortitude, gratitude, overcoming adversity and despair and ultimately there is empowerment. Each woman had her own family issues that she had to face. For Rhoma Spencer from Trinidad and Tobago there was the pressure to marry and have children. Rosalba Martinni came from Italy and talks of her rage that consumes her.  She overcame being raped in order to survive and endure. Michelle Polak talks about how grateful she is that her grandfather, the only living member of his family, survived Auschwitz to marry, move to Montreal and begin his family. There are stories of people who came here without knowing the language and enduring, but wanting to fit in and not succeeding because of the accent and being thought to be different.

And there are conversations about different cultures, one of which is startling. At one point in the show, Rosalba Martinni and Rhoma Spencer got into a heated discussion over female genital mutilation. Rosalba Martinni thinks it us barbaric and Rhoma Spencer firmly says that it is part of a people’s culture and nobody from the West had the right to pass judgement.  Both women stood their ground, Martinni with a bubbling anger and Spencer with a determined, hard-edged conviction. Something one thinks is so simple and obvious is looked at in a different light in the context of being from a different culture. Rightly or wrongly, it’s something to consider.

The challenging production is terrific. Beatriz Pizano not only wrote the show from the writings of her cast, she also directs it. There is vivid imagery thanks to impressive projections (Trevor Schwellnus) and an evocative soundscape (Brandon Miguel Valdivia). Trevor Schwellnus also designed the simple set of eight stumps of wood situated semi-circle around a fire pit. The cast sit on the stumps at various times in the play as a gathering.

Each of the women in this cast of eight brings her own stories, impressions and resilience. And while they each have such different life experiences, they are joined in solidarity because they are women with backbone, tenacity and resolve.

The Solitudes is both eye-opening and sobering.

Aluna Theatre presents in association with Nightwood Theatre:

Opened: Jan. 9, 2020.

Closes: Jan. 18, 2020.

Running Time: 95 minutes.

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