Review: THE IN-BETWEEN

by Lynn on May 4, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

On demand through Young People’s Theatre of the Georgie Theatre production until May 14, 2022.

www.youngpeoplestheatre.org

Written by Marcus Youssef

Directed by Mike Payette

Set and costumes designed by Diana Uribe

Lighting designed by Tim Rodrigues

Sound designed by Rob Denton

Video Designer, Amelia Scott

Cast: Skyler Clark

Qianna MacGilchrist

Sepehr Reybod

Amelia Scott

A bracing, important play about racism, perceptions of people considered ‘other’ or privileged and the importance of being in-between.

The Story. Lily is our narrator. She is a young teenager.  She is earnest, conscientious, bubbly, helpful and trusting. Something happened between two of her friends and she was in the middle of it and that was only the beginning.

Lily comments on people’s perceptions of her and where she came from. She says that she is Canadian because her parents are Canadian. Then she offers that she was adopted at six months from Viet Nam by her Canadian parents. She was never curious about her birth parents.

Lily’s best friend is Brit. Brit’s father abandoned the family years before, leaving Brit’s mother to raise her on her own. Brit’s mother suffers from depression that results in her mother not being able to hold down a job. Brit does the best she can to offer comfort and support to her mother but it’s difficult. Often Lily’s parents give money to Brit to tide her and her mother over for rent and food.

Karim is another classmate of Lily and Brit. Karim has liked Lily since grade eight. He finally got up the nerve to tell her this year. Karim came to Canada from Lebanon when he was a child because his successful tech parents wanted better opportunities to make money. Lily thinks they work for Google. Karim is careful to say they are not refugees because other classmates lob racist comments at him saying he’s a terrorist etc. He contends with a lot and doesn’t back down.

When Lily decides to meet Karim one evening instead of going to Brit’s house to give her comfort, Brit texts another schoolmate named Bennie, who is a racist, just to reach out to someone. Bennie sends pictures of Karim and Lily meeting, which sets Brit off and matters spiral.

We learn that racism is a problem in the school. Muslims are targeted with racist slurs and threatening texts and emails. Karim feels that people must stand up to this and put a stop to it. Lily feels she is ‘in-between’ her friends and must decide what to do.

The Production. Director Mike Payette has created a fast-paced production that always focuses on the issues in Marcus Youssef’s play. Diana Uribe’s simple set of three benches are easy to maneuver to change location and scenes. Screens upstage are used to project racist comments from posts and texts. We also see texts between Lily (Qianna MacGilchrist) and Karim (Sepehr Reybold) and Lily and Brit (Skyler Clark). Watching the speed of how each character types the texts and seeing the posts quickly appear projected on the screens ramps up the tension in the scenes. Beautifully done and so spare.

Marcus Youssef has created such a layered, complex play in The In-Between. It’s about racism, fitting in, class differences, senses of entitlement, misunderstanding, misperceptions, the danger of rumor, inuendo, loyalty to one’s friends and friendship.

Lily comes from a loving family who adopted her from Viet Nam. They realize the difficulty that Brit and her mother are going through and try to help with money since they know that Brit’s mother’s depression often prevents her from working. Lily has never questioned where she has come from or seemingly wanted to find out about her culture. It’s Karim who suggests that she look up her birth parents. He’s very clear about who he is and where he came from. He stands up to the racism of Bennie and his mates and tries to suggest that do Lily as well. Karim is proud of his parents’ success and seems almost boastful when he can show Lily their new flash car. Karim’s parents are not refugees and don’t want to be associated with them. Karim carries on that attitude as well, so another kind of ‘ostracism’ occurs with Karim and his attitudes, between him (who is privileged) and refugees (who might have a harder time in adjusting).

And then there is Brit. She’s emotionally wounded, full of worry for her mother’s health issues; worried about money because her mother keeps losing jobs; fraught when Lily doesn’t come over when she said she would, and quickly angry when she finds out Lily was out with Karim instead. She petulantly seeks comfort in a text from Bennie who then escalates the racism from his end.

Marcus Youssef has written a play for our times that is rich in issues we all must address and examine. His characters are totally believable especially when given such sturdy performances by Qianna MacGilchrist as Lily, Skyler Clark as Brit and Sepehr Reybod as Karim.

Comment. Marcus Youssef has tackled thorny issues and made them resonate for a young teen audience. The dialogue is bracing and even cutting. While I appreciate what he has written for his three vibrant characters and how they all deal with racism without pat answers, I would be fascinated to see what Marcus Youssef would do in dealing with the blazing racist hate of the unseen Bennie, the instigator of much of the racist terrorism and unrest in that school. Just a thought. The In-Between is timely, important and necessary.

The Geordie Theatre production presented by Young People’s Theatre:

Plays on demand until May 14, 2022.

Running Time: 45 minutes with a talk-back.

www.youngpeoplestheatre.org

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