by Lynn on June 24, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Distillery Distillery District, Toronto, Ont. Playing until June 26, 2022.

Written by Kevin Loring

Directed by Jani Lauzon

Set by Ken MacKenzie

Costumes by Samantha McCue

Lighting by Arun Srinivasan

Sound by James Dallas Smith

Video and projection design by Samay Arcentales Cajas

Cast: Oliver Dennis

Sheldon Elter

Craig Lauzon

Valerie Planche

Tara Sky

James Dallas Smith

Very moving play. Beautifully done.

The Story. Kevin Loring’s play is an Indigenous story that takes place in Lytton, B.C. Years ago—not recently when the whole town practically burned down last year because of raging forest fires in British Columbia. Floyd and Mooch are best friends. They spend most of their time in George’s bar where Mooch is usually “mooching” drinks from his friend Floyd. Hence the name “Mooch.” To make matters worse, Mooch is unemployed, troubled and usually steals his girlfriend June’s money to buy beer. She’s saving the money either to buy groceries or pay bills. Floyd has a job, but he is troubled too…hence the drinking.

The root of the drinking is that both men went to a Residential School when they were kids and while it’s not detailed what they endured, we can imagine from what we’ve heard and read in the media. Also, Floyd and his late wife Annie had a daughter Christine but because of a tragedy that happened to Annie, Christine was taken away from Floyd because he couldn’t take care of her properly and Christine was adopted by another family. Now Christine has written to her father that she wants to come and see him to learn about her Indigenous culture, heritage etc. She lives in the city, and comes to the wilds of B.C. to meet her father and Floyd is anxious about it. He thinks he’s inadequate and is embarrassed and haunted by the fact that he couldn’t take care of her properly.

The Production.  Musician, James Dallas Smith is a constant presence in this production, wearing a cream-coloured suit with cowboy hat, playing guitar that adds sound and music to the production.

The production is directed by Jani Lauzon and it’s terrific and sensitive. Ken MacKenzie has designed a “mobile” of written letters suspended about the stage. They are symbolic of the letters that Christine wrote to her father Floyd and they are a constant presence in her and his life. Two large walls act as surfaces on which Samay Arcentales Cajas’ projections flow. The walls will depict animated birds and fish, usually the mighty and symbolic sturgeon, flying and swimming by as if referencing symbols of Indigenous culture and aspects that are so important to it. There are also backdrops of the gorgeous wilderness of BC with rivers that Floyd and Mooch fish. Director Jani Lauzon has captured and illuminated the symbolism of Indigenous life and conveyed that so elegantly and clearly in her thoughtful production.

The camaraderie between Mooch (Craig Lauzon) and Floyd (Sheldon Elter) is easy, joshing, teasing, joyful and sometimes prickly. As Mooch, Craig Lauzon wears a toque under which is long hair. His clothes are well worn and he just melts into any chair in the bar as if he lives there, which he does in a way. His laugh is easy because he’s so full of beer. But he is haunted and that’s clear as the production progresses. He is haunted by the memory of the Residential School. He is haunted by what happened to Annie. And for all his being haunted and his drinking to forget, he continues to live and gets on with his life. He apologizes to his girlfriend June. He’s full of remorse but there is charm too. It’s a multi-layered performance.

Sheldon Elter as Floyd is as complex and he carries that with more gravitas than Mooch. Floyd is a more mature, considerate friend and man to Mooch. Floyd has a job and wants to do well by his daughter Christine, a sweet and confident Tara Sky. As June, Valerie Planche presents an angry, disappointed presence. She loves Mooch, but he consistently steals from her, despite his protestations. And she forgives him, but that angry is always there. Finally, Oliver Dennis gives a lovely, kindly performance as George who sees the personal damage Mooch and Floyd have suffered and live with. And for all these characters are haunted by their pasts, there is that resilient hope that things will be better.

Very moving play. Beautifully done.

Comment. I think writer Kevin Loring has written a heart-breaking, play of such vivid language we are taken into another world. It’s a story that recurs in many plays but one never gets used to such an accumulation of tragedy.  And while the past has weighed down these men, left them haunted, there still is that drive to continue, to keep living, to keep hoping that enlivens the resilience.

Co-produced by Soulpepper with Native Earth Performing Arts:

Plays until: June 26, 2022.

Running time: 90 minutes. No intermission

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