Review: Chapter 21

by Lynn on March 24, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the AKI Studio, Native Earth Performing Arts, 585 Dundas St. E., Toronto, Ont. Plays until March 26, 2023.

Choreographed and performed by Starr Muranko

Directed by Yvette Nolan

Composed by Edgardo Moreno

Lighting by Jonathan Kim

Costumes by Jeanette Kotowich

Videographer, Sophia Wolfe.

Note: I’m reviewing this dance piece in theatrical terms because dance is not my forte.

A topless mannequin is stage right, a purse is slung over one shoulder; a ‘skirt’ or an arrangement of scarves are fashioned around the mannequin’s waist to look like a skirt, a pair of low heels are on the floor. Dancer/performer Starr Muranko enters and through voice-over, spoken word and dance, Starr Muranko illuminates her journey with cancer. She wears a delicate top over a flowing skirt. She is barefoot. There are 21 days between treatments. There are surgeries, complications, more surgeries. She buys an expensive but beautiful wig to hide her bald head from hair loss.  Her treatments are such that she cannot go near young children for several hours. This is difficult because she has a baby at home. The baby, Sami, is the love of her life but he was born with health issues.

Composer Edgardo Moreno has created a score initially cacophonous, percussive, hard to go with the bombardment of bad news that Starr Muranko has endured. Her movements are raw, wild, lashing out, but then there is control, forcefulness, as if she is fighting an unseen foe. She punches rhythmically. The sense of initial despair has given way to resolve a ferocious tenacity not to give in to the bad news but to fight.  Starr Muranko also faced decisions about her then unborn baby boy. She faced that with the same resolve. Through the piece there is grace, gentleness, a reaching up for joy. She notes that she used to wear red lipstick but then stopped for some reason.

Starr Muranko faced the worst news in the world—“I’m sorry, you have cancer” and other challenges–and dealt with it by creating Chapter 21, with the delicate director’s guidance of Yvette Nolan. it’s a shattering, embracing piece of art. And then Starr Muranko put on her shoes and red lipstick. Unforgettable.   

Produced by Raven Spirit Dance, presented by Native Earth Performing Arts.

Opened: March 23, 2023.

Closes: March 26, 2023.

Running time: 45 minutes (no intermission)

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