Sunday, May 22, 2022

THE HERD – REVIEW OF INDIGENOUS CREATION AT TARRAGON THEATRE

Reviewed by James Karas 

The Herd by Kenneth T. Williams is a coproduction by three theatre companies spanning much of Canada. The companies involved are the Citadel Theatre of Edmonton, the Tarragon Theatre of Toronto and the National Arts Centre – Indigenous Theatre of Ottawa. The big advantage of the cooperative production is that the play will be performed in three major cities for a start. More importantly however, it is a play by an indigenous playwright and the cast and almost entire creative team are indigenous and the play deals with indigenous issues. It is something that all Canadians should applaud.

The play deals with the lives of people of a First Nation relating ostensibly to the fate of a herd of bison. The background facts of the fate of the bison and life on a reservation for the indigenous people should be well-known. There were millions of bison across North America and they were systematically slaughtered to the verge of extinction. They are now surviving in national parks and as highly desirable meat in herds raised by private businesses. 

How people live on the reservation is, of course, far more germane. There is a lack of potable water, lack of jobs and lack of other amenities. The situation is deplorable to the core.

The play has five characters and the catalytical issue is the birth of two white bison calves. Are they mutants or are they the result of genetic engineering or are they the beginning of the revival of the bison population? There is a prophecy, we are told, that the bison will return in their former plentitude.   

                                                    The cast of The Herd 

These are the conflicting possibilities as we meet the people of the play. And they are a colourful group. The geneticist Dr. Vanessa Brokenhorn (Tai Amy Grauman) is a no-nonsense scientist who is trying to solve the puzzle of the birth of the twins through research. Her brother Michael “Baby Pete” Brokenhorn (Dylan Thomas-Bouchier) is the well-intentioned but rather ineffectual chief. He received some money from a settlement (I think it was from the death of his parents in car crash) and he is willing to spend it to get drinkable water for his people. They have had to boil their water for twenty years. He sees an opportunity to save the reserve from poverty by making the bison a lucrative business.

Coyote Jackson (Todd Houseman) is a clownish reporter-warrior-blogger running around with his cell phone on a selfie stick. One is not sure what to make of him. Is he a satiric figure, are we to take him seriously or is he just a clown?

Sheila Kennedy (Shyanne Duquette) is a decent woman who likes to play radio bingo, keeps in touch with the elders, and is one who recalls the prophecy.

Aislinn Kennedy (Cheyenne Scott) is a native, related to Sheila who arrives from Ireland as a representative of the European Union looking for business opportunities in the sale of bison. Scott speaks with a bizarre accent that (I think) is supposed to be Irish that needs more polish and consistency. The character is unconvincing and the idea that the EU is trying to grab bison from a Canadian First Nation is not supported in the play.

The play for all its virtues in bringing the life of a First Nation to the fore lacks focus and cohesion. Modern science trying to untangle a complex genetic issue that may be a rare mutation, or the survival of a cattle gene is taking us far. The idea of the fulfillment of a prophecy that would have nothing to do with science but everything with religion takes far in another direction. The commercial prospects of selling highly marketable bison meat to Europe goes in another uncharted route. Not to mention the other issues. In short, we need more focus and sounder development of the characters involved.

Director Tara Beagan may have chosen to keep a tighter grip on the characterization of the roles, especially of Coyote Jackson and Aislinn Kennedy. The play could gain from some editing to give it more focus. We do not expect it to have solutions but would  like it to hit us in the face with the problems faced by First Nations.

The play and the production will hopefully travel across Canada and act as a catalyst for our First Nations’ taking centre stage in Canada’s cultural life and making it unnecessary for that fact to be mentioned. It should be just a part of Canadian life.

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The Herd by Kenneth T. Williams opened on May 11 and will continue until June 12, 2022, at the Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Ave. Toronto, Ontario.  www.tarragontheatre.com/

James Karas is the Senior Editor – Culture of The Greek Press. This review first appeared in the newspapaer.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

THE MAGIC FLUTE – REVIEW OF CANADIAN OPERA COMPANY’S 2022 PRODUCTION

Reviewed by James Karas

When Papageno, the naïve and loveable bird catcher, sees the pretty Papagena who is to become his wife, he exclaims a loud and gleeful WOW. That is what tenor Gordon Bintner does in the current production of The Magic Flute presented by the Canadian Opera Company at the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto. 

WOW is the most precise and laudable review one can give to a performance. There is a problem with using that word as the definitive and only description. No, not for the performers but for the critics who would join the unemployment line and the papers that may have to deal with blank  pages. Fortunately for reviewers and unfortunately for performers, WOW is rarely used as a definitive judgment of a production. Alas, the same applies to this production of Mozart’s sixteenth opera. It has some virtues but for some reason it simple fails to grab us.

This is a revival of the COC’s  2011 production of The Magic Flute which was originally directed by Diane Paulus. The same production was staged in 2017 and is currently revived by Anna Theodosakis.

Paulus presents the opera as a play-within-a-play. In a program note she states that “The entire play-within-a-play is presented in the open space of a nobleman’s garden, itself a place of enchantment and symbolic power during this historical period.” The story is enacted in an elaborate labyrinth of hedges on the grounds of the estate. It is a good idea and a fine place to enact a fairy tale.

Photo from 2017 revival. No current photos provided.
Set and costume designer Myung Hee Cho handles numerous scene changes from gardens, to mountains, to groves, to Temple of Wisdom astutely and economically with lighting changes and moveable hedges.

I should declare my view of the opera. It was first produced in 1791 in the Theatre auf der Wieden, outside of Vienna and its censors. The libretto was by Emanuel Schikaneder, a man of the popular theatre. He was interested in making money and not producing high art. The Magic Flute is a Singspiel, a play with songs or simply a popular musical. It may have some of Mozart’s best music and contains some highfalutin ideas about wisdom, goodness, bravery and some other virtues practiced by Masons. That sounds heavy-handed but it is not because the music and beautiful songs do not allow it to become anything but wonderful and there is hilarious comedy to carry you to the triumphal end.

Diane Paulus’s production does not fully succeed as such. When Papageno yells WOW at the sight of Papagena he gets a big laugh but Paulus does not take advantage of the many opportunities for comedy in the opera. Papageno’s attempt at suicide, should have the audience roaring with laughter. Here it produced a little more than polite enjoyment. No fault of Bintner who needed better direction to be hilarious.

The quality of the singing had some inevitable variations but it was overall very sound. Caroline Wettergreen gets high marks for surviving the tortuous Aria of the Queen of the Night. Yes, that’s the one that has a two-octave range and she expels those high Fs as if they were poisoned arrows. But go past that and look at her daughter Pamina’s reactions as the Queen demands that she kill her father and, far worse, the vile and malevolent curses that she spouts if she fails to do so. Wettergreen deserves to be judged with the power of her performance and not just the high notes. She is brilliant overall.

She contrasts beautifully with her estranged husband Sarastro sung by bass David Leigh.  

Dressed in gold, he is the epitome of wisdom and rectitude. He sings “O Isis und Osiris” and “In diesen heil’gen Hallen” with steady resonance and sonority and we enjoy every note of them.    

Our hero Tamino was in the hands and vocal chords of tenor Ilker Arcayűrek while the heroine Pamina is assigned Anna-Sophie Neher. They both have lovely voices and we share in their “suffering” as they are sorely tried as they progress through the hardships on their way to the Temple of Wisdom which I translate to be as a happy marriage and a happy life. 

The COC Orchestra and Chorus shone under the baton of Patrick Lange.

The problem was that on the day I saw it, the performance seemed to be weighed down and did not engage the audience. The curtain calls’ reactions ranged from polite to positive was with some nuggets of enthusiasm.  

As I said, Papageno’s WOW got one of the biggest laughs. How I wish I could have reviewed the entire production with that one word.

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The Magic Flute by W. A. Mozart (music) and Emanuel Schikaneder (libretto) is being performed seven times from May 6 to 21, 2022 at the Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen St. West Toronto. www.coc.ca

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

LA TRAVIATA – REVIEW OF CANADIAN OPERA COMPANY 2022 PRODUCTION

Reviewed by James Karas

The pandemic has strangled most cultural events for more than two years and if we are not at the end of the tunnel, we are at least seeing some lights. One of those lights is the return of the Canadian Opera Company with a revival of its 2015 production of La Traviata. It was a superb production then and it is a superb production now. The audience greeted it with a standing ovation as recognition of its quality and perhaps gratitude for the return to normality however partial.

Arin Arbus’s production is intelligent, well-sung, vibrant, colourful and conservative in the best sense of the word. That means it is far cry from productions that bank on directorial flights of fancy like Willy Decker’s staging that featured a single set with a huge clock dominating the set but a traditional approach is something that we do not want to do without.  

In any production of this chestnut, our attention is always drawn to the lyric soprano singing to role of Violetta, the tragic heroine who finds love and death in breathtaking succession. This time the role is taken by Amina Edris, a relative newcomer that has sung in many regional opera houses and may well be ready to turn out to be a major star.

She makes her debut appearance with the COC and she displayed vocal beauty combined with sustained emotional pulse. There were several mispronounced words but her phrasing and gorgeous tone made for a marvelous performance.

Matthew Polenzani as Alfredo and Amina Edris as Violetta. Photo: Michael Cooper 

Matthew Polenzani is one of the major tenors who has sung the role of Alfredo Germont numerous times to great acclaim. The performance that I saw may not have been his best. He displayed his vocal splendour in arias like “Oh mio rimorso!” where he promises to wash away the infamy and disgrace of his conduct. He sings with vocal flourish and hits the high notes with unerring precision. In other places, however, I thought his heart was not in what he delivered. At 54, his voice may be getting darker or he may be past his prime.

Baritone Simone Piazzola has the juicy role of Giorgio Germont. He sings the marvelous “Di provenza il mar il suol” and and “Il suol chi dal cor ti cancello” with feeling and resonance and even though he is an authoritarian patriarch who is more interested in his daughter’s marriage than in his son’s happiness we do not despise him. He emerges as a sympathetic figure in the end when he realizes and repents his transgressions. Most of that occurs, I think, because of the power of those arias and, in this case, Piazzola’s splendid delivery of them.

Set Designer Riccardo Hernandez has created sets that are economical and very sound. The first act has a colorful dinner table in the middle with a curved wall at the back that is unadorned. There are what look like stacking chars at the back and a large mirror is the only adornment hanging on the side. The second set represents the country home of Violetta and Alfredo and it has two large panels of rural scenes and a piece of furniture. The party room at Flora’s house is brightly lit in red giving it a festive atmosphere. The final scene has a bed and the mirror of the first act has fallen down. Hernandez makes use of shadows that show people in relief and it is very effective.

The costumes by Cait O’Connor are gorgeous. Marcus Doshi’s lighting transforms the set from the bare wall of the first act, to the country house in the second and the big party at Flora’s place with amazing effectiveness.

It is worth emphasizing the excellence of Arbus’s conception and achievement which together with Johannes Debus’ conducting a brilliant performance by the COC Orchestra, brings a wonderful night at the opera.

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La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi opened on April 23 and will be performed a total of seven times until May 20, 2022, at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario. Tel:  416-363-6671. www.coc.ca

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press. This review appears in the newspaper 

Friday, April 29, 2022

THREE WOMEN OF SWATOW – REVIEW OF CHLOE HUNG’S BLOODBATH OF A PLAY AT TARRAGON

Reviewed by James Karas

“Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him.”

That is what the unhinged Lady Macbeth says recalling the blood she saw oozing from the bodies of King Duncan and his guards who had been butchered by her husband.

If Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and perhaps William Shakespeare had seen Chloé Hung’s Three Women of Swatow they would have known that murder and blood need not produce insanity, nightmares an any untoward effects. Hung and Tarragon Theatre were not around then to show how to handle blood and parts of the human anatomy in a bathtub.

The play has three characters. The Grandmother (played by Carolyn Fe), her daughter, referred to as the Mother (played by (Chantria Tram) and the Daughter of the Mother, of course, (played Diana Luong), we have three generations of the same family living in Toronto.

There are some issues among the three, Grandmother can chew nails and spit rust, as they say, and drinks hard liquor to excess. She also reads Bible stories about murder. A nice touch that. Her daughter is married to an abusive gambler but she refuses to leave him. How abusive is he and and on what does she base her faith that he will be reformed? This becomes even more inexplicable as the play progresses.

Chantria Tram, Carolyn Fe and Diana Luong. Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann  

The granddaughter is a smart, independent young lady who chooses to live with her grandmother rather than her parents. Is she the hope of the family?

These issues are not well-developed at all and the overriding problem in the play is murder and its by-product blood. The Grandmother was forced to marry a man she did not love, and she used her skill with a meat cleaver to dispatch her husband to another dimension. We learn very little about the conduct of the husbands to justify their murders.

Her daughter has sent her husband’s soul only to the same destination as her father but not his body which is now lying in a large bathtub on stage. What do you do with a bathtub full of blood and the body of a man?

The granddaughter is not quite prepared to follow in the family tradition (she is even a vegetarian) and the play will lead us to the climactic relationship among the three women.

Like lady Macbeth, some of us are astounded by the amount of blood the husband in the bathtub has. There is blood on the fridge door, the floor and just about everywhere, it seems. The women keep stirring but some body parts clog the drain. The granddaughter brings five plungers (I hope you bought them from different stores, says the Grandmother) and a couple of large bottles of drain unclogger to help with the job at hand.  

Is this a straightforward horror story or is it black comedy? There is not enough horror in three women trying to drain blood down the drain. The reasons for the murders are not sufficiently developed for us to feel relief and then horror.

Is it a black comedy? There are a few good lines as when the five plungers are brought in or the Mother says that “killing your husband is not a good parenting tactic.” Most of the black comedy lines unfortunately misfired.

Director Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster calls the play a black comedy and it may well be intended as such but we need a lot more laughter even if it is uncomfortable, brutal or sadistic

Fe, Tram and Luong are excellent in their roles but the play can use a dramaturge to provide more focus and justification for the brutal acts of murder, be they funny, farcical or serious.

And poor Lady Macbeth went bonkers by just remembering the bloodbath.

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Three Women of Swatow  by Chloé Hung continues until May 15, 2022 at the Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Ave. Toronto, Ontario. It will be streamed digitally by   Digital Tarragon Chez Vous in May 15-25. www.tarragontheatre.com

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press where this review appears.  

Monday, April 25, 2022

BOY FALLS FROM THE SKY - REVIEW OF JAKE EPSTEIN’S THEATRICAL MEMOIRS AT THE ROYAL ALEX

Reviewed by James Karas

Jake Epstein is a talented Torontonian who has achieved numerous successes as an actor, singer and writer. He has performed on television and in live theatre in Canada, on Broadway and across the United States. But his greatest success to date  may be the show his has created telling us about his successes and failures. In Boy Falls From The Sky he offers a funny, touching and highly entertaining program that gives us glimpses of behind-the-scenes theatrical experiences and vignettes of his private life.

Epstein has mastered the art of storytelling. He knows how to modulate his voice. inject a dramatic pause in his narrative and keep the audience with him, while playing his guitar and singing snippets of songs. In the end, he earns a standing ovation.

The title comes from his performance as Spider man where he had to jump some forty feet from a ladder to the stage floor– many times. He controls the narrative tightly as he tells us of the preparation, the search for advice (fall of all fours with your face towards the stage floor) and the injuries he received leaving him flat in bed. The story is scary, moving and funny.

There are many experiences that he tells us about. He is hired as a dancer and the director notices that he can’t dance. The director asks him why he took the job if he could not dance. Why did you hire me without checking if I can dance? he asks. “You are fired” is the quick reply.

Justin Han, David Atkinson, Lauren Falls and Jake Epstein 
 Photo © Cylla von Tiedemann
His acting career, preceded by love and enthusiasm for performing, started modestly as the paper delivery boy in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1999. His repertoire expanded when he got the part of a hotdog inside someone’s stomach in a skit in his high school drama class.

He gets curt dismissals but he has big successes as well like getting the role of Gerry, Carole King’s husband in Beautiful: The Carol King Musical on Broadway. Epstein does not just mention this and it would not be funny if he did no more. Carole King told him not to make her former husband a villain. On the first curtain call and after every performance after that  Epstein was roundly booed  because he represented a bad man. How do you deal with “a wall of hatred”? he asks. 

Along with the many stories about life in the theatre as an aspiring actor, Epstein tells us about his supportive parents (ten and a half hour drives to New York), his sister and his up-and-down relationship with his girlfriend (he lives in New York , she lives in Toronto), but things work out and he marries her. He lands a great part and people are congratulating him on his success. He has to brazen out the fact that he was fired from the role.

Boy Falls from the Sky has David Atkinson as music director and keyboard player, Lauren Falls paying bass and Justin Han on drums. They provide the musical accompaniment for Jake’s middling singing and help with the pacing and variety of the show.

Again, as much as Epstein deserves kudos as a successful actor and singer, he deserves even more recognition for being able to create such  an entertaining show from his own experiences. It is not an easy achievement but with the help of director Robert McQueen he has developed something intelligent, witty, refreshing and marvelous.

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Boy Falls from the Sky written by Jake Epstein and developed by Epstein and Robert McQueen continues until May 29, 2022, at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King St. W. Toronto, Ont. www.mirvish.com

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press

Thursday, April 21, 2022

THE ANTIPODES – REVIEW OF COAL MINE THEATRE PRODUCTION

Reviewed by James Karas

Coal Mine Theatre has a small storefront space on Danforth Avenue, Toronto and it is a splendid small company that produces high quality and adventurous drama. It gave us Annie Baker’s intriguing absurdist play The Aliens in 2017 and this is year it is treating us with her 2017 play The Antipodes.

Performers have been telling stories since time immemorial and The Antipodes does tell a story of sorts but it is telling a story about telling stories. Eight people sit around a table and seven of them, perhaps six, are employed to tell a story or stories. Sandy, the boss, confirms to the older employees that they know what the job involves and instructs the new ones about what the job is. This is a paid, full-time job not a friendly gathering where people exchange tales.

He wants them to be creative, different, and produce something that will change the world. Who are these people? They are being paid for what they do and are told that they will not work past seven or on weekends. What they are looking for may be world-changing but we don’t know what it is, why they are looking for whatever they are looking for, who these people are, how they were chosen and who is paying them.

l to r-Sarah Dodd, Colin A. Doyle, Joshua Browne, Ari Cohen, Murray Furrow, 
Nadeem Phillip and Joseph Zita. Photo: Dahlia Katz 

We learn that they just finished a session about Heathens and start by relating embarrassing stories about sexual experiences. They veer off into the meaning of time and make cryptic references to other stories like the mysterious Alejandra’s and that of the incredible Jerry Madigan and Paragon. Sandy’s perky assistant Sarah pokes her head in throughout the play and looks after orders of food and other needs of the story tellers. She later becomes one of the storytellers with a personal experience involving an evil stepmother and a haunted house.

They veer off into dialogues that makes sense to some of the cast and maybe to to some of the audience but I don’t follow it. Is it perhaps not intended to be followed?

There are many background issues that are brought up during the “breaks.” Sandy’s wife is ill, Eleanor’s mother has dementia and her house is flooded destroying almost everything except some childhood stories written by Eleanor.

Josh has ID and perhaps worse issues and is not being paid.  Dave’s father shoots himself in the face in front of his mother. Danny M2 tells a long story about looking after chickens and making sure the fox does not get to them. He is called to Sandy’s office and never returns. No explanation is given.

We find out more about the operation slowly and opaquely. There is a large corporate structure hoping to make money from the story tellers. This group is one of many and they have been at it for some three months and there may be doubts about their productivity and continuity. Do the stories told by this group or any group have any relevance? What is happening in the outside world?

The realistic telling of some personal stories becomes more frightful and we meet Max, or the voice of Max. The people in the room put on goggles to see him. Is he the CEO of the corporation? Is he a monster? He is one of the countless things in the play that we don’t really understand.

The play moves toward its tragic end (I will not disclose it) opaquely, indirectly, ineluctably and mysteriously. We are not sure how or why the apparent process of storytelling and story-collecting began, how well the process worked and how it ends. One of the philosophical questions raised in the play is the passage of time. Can one hundred thousand years in another dimension pass in a few seconds in our dimension?

This is a complex, elusive, highly allusive and fascinating play. Annie Baker provides some humour, guffaws in fact, and movement so that the heavy arguments are balanced with apparently lighter stories about the lives of her characters. The spectator, I suggest, is well advised to pay strict attention to the side stories as well as many details of the stories told.

That said, let us praise the the director Ted Dykstra for his expert handling of this complex work. It flows as if it were ordinary play that needs about one- and three-quarter hours to unfold. No small achievement.

Ample praise is deserved by the cast who are so superb that they make the play seem simple. Ari Cohen is the nice boss who explains what the job is all about about we soon see the personal and professional undercurrents in his life. Near the end he takes off his baseball cap as a good indicator that worse is about to come.

Sarah Dodd plays the likeable, attractive Eleanor who at the start tells us about losing her virginity as a pleasant event but later we find much unpleasantness in her life. The only other woman in the play is the chirpy and efficient assistant Sarah played by Kelsey Verzotti. She tells a serious story and in both capacities as the perky assistant and the traumatized storyteller she gives a superb performance.

Colin A. Doyle plays Josh, Joseph Zita plays Brian, Nadeem Phillip plays Adam, Murray Furrow plays Danny M1, Simon Bracken is M2, and Joshua Browne plays Dave. They gave superb individual performances and accomplished ensemble acting with superb energy flowing among them despite the complexity of the play.

Go see it. And pay attention.

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The Antipodes by Annie Baker continues until May 15, 2022, at the Coal Mine Theatre, 1454 Danforth Ave. Toronto, M4J 1N4. www.coalminetheatre.com/

James Karas is the Senoir Editor - Culture of The Greek Press. This review appeared first in thr newspaper.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

ORPHAN SONG – REVIEW OF NEW PLAY BY SEAN DIXON AT TARRAGON THEATRE

Reviewed by James Karas 

Sean Dixon’s new play, Orphan Song, is based on a personal experience that spawned a fascinating imaginary journey into the primeval past when Homo Sapiens, our ancestors, evolved and encountered the more primitive Neanderthals. The personal experience was the adoption by Dixon and his wife of a little girl and entering the wonderful and at times harrowing world of child rearing.

In the play, Dixon imagines a couple, living 40,000 years ago, whose child has died. The distraught parents encounter a group of Neanderthals who quickly perish but a child remains alive. The couple, Gorse and his wife Mo, save the child’s life and decide to keep it. The child is unable to speak and is wild but it does take to Gran, Gorse’s mother.

How do you represent the new breed of humans, the Neanderthals, the creatures and sounds of their world?

The cast of Orphan Song. Photo: Cylla von Toedemann

The humans wear clothes, carry a spear and use crooked walking sticks the way one may imagine them from paintings and movies. They look primitive and they have just started communicating using words or speech. They can count to five and have a limited vocabulary. They supplement their pidgin English with  the use of grunts, noises and gestures that are often incomprehensible. On a couple of occasions. Gorse and Mo speak directly to the audience in modern English.

The Neanderthals are represented by puppets carried by actors. The actors wear black and the puppets have plastic faces but are  made of cloth that is worn by their carriers. They do not have the gift of speech but they make a wide variety of sounds. In fact, we hear sundry sounds of nature and see various animals represented by the puppets including a bear, hyenas, carrion birds and a mastodon. (the program says it’s a mammoth but it looks more like a mastodon).

Gorse, Mo and Gran try to befriend the Neanderthal child which they name Chicky. It is wild, it bites, kicks, wrecks things and, be it a human or Neanderthal child, it is a nightmare. The family moves away from its camp and Mo walks away from them. I could not figure out why she left them but I gather she did so in keeping with some primitive custom of going off to die when you feel that you are a burden to the group. Mo feels that she cannot relate to Chicky.

                                    The cast of Orphan Song. Photo: Cylla von Toedemann

She encounters wild animals as does the rest of the family that is looking for her. They meet Neanderthals again who “speak” to Chicky and there is a final resolution.

It is a tough play to do. Dixon has set an almost impossible task to represent what is certainly unknown and perhaps unknowable. We are grateful for the attempt and one should not be surprised if it is not entirely successful. Beau Dixon as Gorse, Sophie Goulet as Mo and Terry Tweed as Gran must speak a form of primitive English that includes incomprehensible words and grunts. It looks like a mammoth job to master and deliver all of it and they deserve a lot of credit for that. At the same time, one must note the negative aspect: the dialogue is not easy to bear for two hours. The puppets are masterly creations and Kaitlin Morrow deserves huge praise as the Puppet Master and the handler of Chicky. Kaitlin has to produce an array of sounds as the little girl in an astounding performance.

Recognition and high praise are deserved by the puppeteers who are the following:  Phoebe Hu, Germaine Konji, Ahmed Moneka, Kaitlyn Riordan, Daniel Williston.

The set by Graeme S. Thomson shows three large canvases that look like Stone Age cave paintings. One of the canvases is brilliantly folded up to represent a mastodon or a mammoth.

Director Richard Rose has orchestrated a production that makes huge demands. The language, the sound effects, the puppets in their myriad of shapes and the puppeteers receive directorial attention of the first order.

One can give credit for the work done and unfortunately also note that the total of all the parts was not as enjoyable as one would have wished.

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Orphan Song by Sean Dixon opened on April 1 and will continues until April 24, 2022, at the Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Ave. Toronto, Ontario. www.tarragontheatre.com

James Karasis the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press, Toronto. This review appeared orignally in the newspapaer.