Review: TRUTH

by Lynn on February 15, 2024

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at Young People’s Theatre, Toronto, Ont. Plays until Feb. 23, 2024.

Written by Kanika Ambrose

Based on the novel “The Gospel Truth” by Caroline Pignat

Directed by Sabryn Rock

Set and costumes by Shannon Lea Doyle

Lighting by Shawn Henry

Sound by Thomas Ryder Payne

Cast: Wade Bogert-O’Brien

Jasmine Case

Chiamaka Glory

Dante Jemmott

Dominique LeBlanc

Jeff Miller

Micah Woods

NOTE: Recommended fir /ages 10+ /grades 5+

A moving piece of theatre about hope and tenacity in the face of despair and confinement.

The Story. It’s 1858 on a tobacco plantation in Virginia. Phoebe is 16, Black, is a slave who works on the plantation owned by Master Duncan.  Phoebe has not spoken since Master Duncan sold her mother who was then taken to another state three years ago. Phoebe adored her mother and the shock of losing her rendered her mute. Phoebe loves another slave named Shad. Shad’s brother, Will attempts to run away frequently but is caught and whipped. Then Dr. Bergman appears wanting to go birdwatching and Phoebe becomes his guide and her world changes.

The Production. Director Sabryn Rock has directed a sensitive, thought-provoking production of Kanika Ambrose’s emotion-charged play. We see and hear of the horrors of that life from Phoebe’s point of view. As Phoebe, Jasmine Case is silent but observant. She is curious and knowing. It was dangerous for a slave to learn how to read and write but Phoebe learned. There are tender scenes with Chiamaka Glory in the dual parts of Bea and Ruth. Phoebe would sit in the hollow of a tree, cocooned by Chiamaka Glory, book in hand, writing in her journal.

Phoebe is spirited in the scenes with Shad (a sweet performance by Dante Jemmott). There is such respect and love between them.

Master Duncan, played by a strict, commanding Jeff Miller has a complicated relationship with Phoebe, that becomes clear. Master Duncan is a brute relishing whipping Will (Micah Woods). Master Duncan’s arrogant humour is carried on by his brat-daughter, Tessa, giving a no-holds-barred performance by Dominique LeBlanc. What those slaves endured from these mean-spirited ‘owners’ is soul-crushing.

But miraculously, Kanika Ambrose’s play Truth is more about resilience, tenacity and the belief in hope, especially when Dr. Bergman (Wade Bogert-O’Brien) arrives from “The North.” It’s not just bird-watching that he’s interested in. It’s more important and Phoebe realizes how important instantly.

The production of Truth is vital in telling and retelling a story that needs to be told, often, and not just in Black History Month.

Comment. I love coming to Young People’s Theatre during student matinees to see how students engage with the subject matter. The audience I was in seemed engaged with the gripping story. But if anything gets the “ewwww” factor from kids of a certain age it’s public displays of affection. In a scene when Phoebe and Shad kissed, those kids were convulsed with “eeeeewwwwwwwwww”. I thought that was kind of sweet and funny. Most important, they ‘got’ the play.

Young People’s Theatre Presents:

Plays until Feb. 23, 2024.

Running time: 70 minutes (no intermission)

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