by Lynn on May 12, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at Theatre Orangeville, Orangeville, Ont. Playing until May 14, 2023.

Written by Mark Crawford

Directed by Jane Spence

Set by Beckie Morris

Lighting by Jeff Johnstone Collins

Costumes by Alex Amini

Sound by Brian Bleasdale

Percussionist: Scott Bruyea

Cast: Chiamaka Glory

John Jarvis

Zaynna Khalife

Andrew Prashad

Norman Yeung

Four new Canadians sign up for a weekly “Learn to Curl” class. Mike Chang (Norman Yeung) is from China and is in his third year of medical school; Charmaine Bailey (Chiamaka Glory) is from Jamaica, has been in Canada for 19 years and is the manager of a local Tim Horton’s; Fatima Al-Sayed (Zaynna Khalife) is newly arrived from Syria; and Anoopjeet Singh (Andrew Prashad) is from India and has been in Canada for seven years, and works at the same Tim Horton’s as Charmaine. He’s hoping to be promoted to assistant-manager. The reluctant coach of this curling club is Stuart MacPhail (John Jarvis) who was roped into coaching by his ex-wife who fell and broke her hip, otherwise she would be coaching. Stuart is irascible and racist. 

There connections between these people. Mike is going out with Stuart’s daughter and Stuart is not happy about it and doesn’t hide it. Anoopjeet is a hard-working family man who believes that he is worthy of the promotion to assistant-manager in Charmaine’s Tim Horton’s. All he has to do is convince Charmaine. In her spare time, Charmaine works to bring refugees from war-torn countries to Canada and Fatima Al-Sayed is one of her new arrivals. Charmaine felt it would be good for Fatima to learn about Canada if she joined the curling club.

Just navigating Beckie Morris’ super-slick curling rink surface is challenging and hilarious enough, but for these five people to bond and create a cohesive team is also challenging. All of them are tentative on the surface but Anoopjeet is particularly ‘on his toes’. Andrew Prashad plays Anoopjeet and illuminates his eagerness to please, his pride in his work, his desire to fit in and his tenacity. Andrew Prashad is also an accomplished dancer so he brings that grace and tenacity to Anoopjeet as he is constantly doing the splits (unintentionally) on the curling surface. It’s both sweet and funny. And of course, he always gets up to try again. Chiamaka Glory as Charmaine has the sass of a woman who has lived in the country for 19 years and knows the ropes. But she also plays Charmaine with heart and compassion. She wants to do right by Anoopjeet and she certainly wants to make Fatima’s stay as easy as possible. As Mike, Norman Yeung is a good man who can rise to the occasion when Stuart baits him and he does often. Mike is going out with Stuart’s daughter, so sparks between the two men fly. Mike walks a fine line of wanting to win Stuart over and staring him down, and not letting Stuart push him around so much. As played by John Jarvis, everything riles Stuart. He’s impatient at these ‘new Canadians’ to learn curling; he’s frustrated in trying to learn their names. And he’s generally unhappy. We learn it’s mis-placed anger and the reason is touching. Finally, as Fatima, Zaynna Khalife is beautifully awkward as she tries to fit in. She is also full of angst because of her brother back in Syria. She is always texting him to see if he’s ok. This is a lovely performance as are they all.

Director Jane Spence keeps the whole thing well-paced and funny. No moment is wasted and every moment of humour and emotion is realized.

Mark Crawford has written a moving, funny play about people who left their homelands, either willingly or forcibly, to come to Canada for a better life. Crawford puts us into the lives and experiences of each of those new Canadians, and the anger filled life of Stuart without pandering to anybody. One will note Crawford is not a person of colour, writing about people of colour. Mark Crawford is ‘merely’ a gifted writer who can realize the many and various experiences of people, and let those of us without those experiences, enter their lives and appreciate it all. Bravo.

Theatre Orangeville presents:

Plays until May 14, 2023.

Running time: 2 hours approx. (one intermission)

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