Revised: Comment: Moments with You, Stratford, Ont.

by Lynn on July 13, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Performed live and in person at the Here for Now Theatre, New Works Festival, Stratford, Ont. on the back lawn of the Bruce Hotel, under a lovely canopy.

Written and performed by Roy Lewis

Music composed and played by Ben Bolt-Martin

Roy Lewis is an accomplished actor in his own right and has acted for many seasons at the Stratford Festival and around the country. Gifted, accomplished poet is now added to the list. Last year he presented his piece, I See The Crimson Wave about Nat Love, a cowboy who love haiku. This year we have Moments with You.

Because this was the first performance of this reading of Roy Lewis’ Moments with You, I will comment rather than review (because comment was welcome).

This is the published description of the show: “Moments with You is a modern Psalm; a dialogue offered in two voices chronicling the death of love, the ensuing struggle to understanding, and the peace found in grace and redemption. A poetic journey across the landscape of the heart written and performed by Roy Lewis with cellist Ben Bolt-Martin.”

In prose and poetry Roy Lewis tells the story of falling in love with Katarina known as ‘K’ and she with him and how quickly that changed. There are references to other lovers for context—Romeo and Juliet, Odysseus, Persephone, Don Juan. But it’s Roy Lewis’ words about his relationship, his love, that is so vivid to the listener.

His description of the love affair with ‘K’ initially is sensuous, sensual, and intoxicating. One gets the sense of the headiness of it all because of Lewis’ description. One almost gets the sense of being an intruding voyeur the words are so personal, but we can’t turn away (“I loved the turn of her leg and she loved my rough beard on her thigh”).  We are compelled to listen. The words are complex; the perception of what is happening is almost like dissecting a living thing, without destroying it. Rather we get a closer, keener look at how the relationship happened, formed, was shaped and eventually fell apart. Lewis’ sense of awareness and perception and his mastery of language makes this relationship and his descriptions of it so compelling.

And there is this description of the man: “And if I asked you to look at my face, would you see the dark eyes, the proud forehead, the nose with its flared nostrils, the dark cocoa of the flesh.”

The sentence is so simple and so vivid in noting that Roy Lewis is a Black man. Not to acknowledge it leaves out a vital component of who he is.

And then there is Roy Lewis’ voice. The words are delivered in a bright, deep baritone, each word crisp, precise, a gem of clarity. He is microphoned, not because he needs it, but because it offers a balance with Ben Bolt-Martin’s cello (which thankfully is not microphoned).  Bolt-Martin’s music is at once lush and often jazzy when the relationship is flourishing and discordant when it’s not. The music and the words serve each other perfectly.

I do have a bit of a quibble. Towards the end of the piece Lewis introduces stories of his parents, their relationship and his observing of them. I found that reference to their relationship—long lasting to be sure—to seem an add on from the main relationship with Lewis and “K”. Perhaps if the reference to his parents and their love could be woven into the narrative at an earlier part in the story, it would seem seamless and not disjointed. I can appreciate this adds context, it’s just that it seems tangential to the main story.  

Roy Lewis is on the stage as the audience files in as is Ben Bolt-Martin who is playing quietly. Lewis is affable and greets everybody. At about fifteen minutes to curtain time, Bolt-Martin plays a few chords of the Stratford Festival fanfare. It’s impish, funny, sweet, and so moving because we are reminded of how much we have missed that ritual, even if it is ‘the other’ festival in Stratford at the moment.  

Moment with You is based on his published book (2011), With You The Moments Of My Life Are Fading which is composed of the poems and stories of the relationship. (and for sale if one want to buy a copy).

I found Moments with You wonderfully poetic, linguistically intoxicating, telling a deeply moving emotional story. Roy Lewis does not let you sit back and relax and let the story wash over you. Rather he makes you sit forward, alert, anticipating the next vivid description, story and poem. Good theatre does that.  

Moments with You plays until August 1.

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