carried away on the crest of a wave is the long title of a play by David Yee that is now playing at the Tarragon Theatre. It is about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the author helpfully tells us, that killed over 250,000 people. The play consists of nine vignettes that present situations related to that massive tragedy. If the intent is to give some idea of the enormity of the event through simple stories, the result is not very successful.
After a brief lecture about seismic movements, the disparate stories start with two brothers floating on top of their sinking house in the ocean. They are identified as Swimmer (Kawa Ada) and Runner (Richard Lee). Not very interesting but it is only the beginning.
In the next scene an engineer (Ada) is sent to investigate a miracle. A basilica was saved from the tsunami and Father Thomas (Ash Knight) and his Catholic flock believe it was a miracle. The Ismaili engineer suggests there is a rational explanation for the event that does not qualify it as divine intervention by the God of the Catholics. Interesting.
We then go to a Toronto radio station where an idiotic host (Richard Zeppieri) blathers about the tsunami basically trivializing it. Is Yee suggesting that the media trivialized the tragedy? He is not convincing at all.
I will not list all the scenes because it would be pointless. We have simulated sex between the prostitute Saraphi (Mayoko Nguyen) and Crumb (Richard Zeppieri) with some pretty trite dialogue about did you really “come” and worse.
Nguyen also plays Lenore, a woman who lost all her family in the tsunami and then kidnapped a small boy and brought him to the United States pretending that he was her son. She is visited by an FBI agent (Richard Lee) some four years later who arrests her. When an FBI agent and a woman start quoting lines from Edgar Allan Poe’s Lenore you may be fairly sure that the author of the play had run out of things to say. The situation, however, can provide enough material for an entire play.
There is a scene where a stranger (John Ng) is waiting at an airport to deliver a young Kid to an uncle. The Kid survived the tsunami but her family perished. Again there is much that can be developed from the situation that is simply left hanging in the air. Eponine Lee is unreservedly and totally cute as the Kid.
We finally get the seismologist (Zeppieri) who worked at the Pacific Tsunami Watch Centre and simply blew it – he misread the signs of the earthquake or the system was inadequate and therefore people were not warned. The concluding scene with Ng has some power but by that time our interest has waned almost completely.
The set designed by Camellia Koo features a plastic curtain around the stage and a couple of inches of water on the floor. There is a dry board walk at the front of the stage but the actors have to wade through water for much of the time. There is a convincing rainfall as well, all quite appropriate and impressive for a play about a tsunami.
There are six actors aside from Eponine and they all take several roles each. They deserve praise for their work in a play that is very uneven and progressively loses your interest. Director Nina Lee Aquino does a good job in directing the piece but the quality of the script leaves a lot to be desired and in the end what you get is not a very good night at the theatre.____
carried away on the crest of a wave by David Yee runs from April 16 to May 26, 2013 at the Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Ave. Toronto, Ontario. www.tarragontheatre.com