Script (Claudia Dey), Direction (Eda Holmes), Set and Costume (Kelly Wolfe), Lighting (Andrea Lundy) and Sound (Rick Sacks) are inventive, wakeful, frequently brilliant, and best of all, work together seamlessly to reinforce the dramatic thrust of the whole production. What is the thrust? That in lives built on a garbage heap, in the wake of a history of disasters, the promise of love, romantic and familial, comes true. The production also explores the related ironythe ties that bind us, literally, tie us up, while the forces that invade us, and seem to threaten us, may well be liberating.
Claudia Deys use of language, well known for its poetic tenor, has a way of getting references to everyday things to resound at a cosmic level. This technique reinforces the overall ironic effect of the play. She accomplishes this through ritualizing the speech of her characters in a few ways. The missing parents are always and only referred to as the holies, or the holy father and holy mother in ordinary discourse. The missing woman is always spoken of as the missing stripper and scrabble champion. As characters tell and retell parts of their life stories they tend to repeat phrases and whole sentences from previous tellings as though talking about oneself were a ritual, which, I agree, it is. Many speeches are built on repetition of an opening phrase, such as A man with a soul secretly wishes for
or, Love makes us
and the blank is filled quite a few times.
Supporting this ritualistic use of language is ritualistic behaviour. Trout Stanley, Sugars suitor, has a foot-fetishhe sniffs slippersnever lies, and has a bit of a drinking problem. Sugar, who used to whisper I love you to everyone she ever said goodbye to, now hasnt left her house in ten years, wears her holy mothers track suit every day, makes lunch for Grace every morning, greets her coming home with the same phrases, spends her time making little tragic figurines to commemorate the things that go wrong in her life. And there is a litany of place-names, persons, events, and activities (The Dump, The Billboard, The Lion-Queen, The Birdbabies, The Way of the Snail), which through frequent and constant repetition become iconic and make what they refer to stand out against a larger, more philosophical background.
Other aspects of the production are well thought out to support this direction. The set never changes scene changes are signaled, intriguingly, by going to dark and by sound effects; the unforgettable costumes never change, unless, as in ritual drama, characters change inwardly. The direction as far as pacing of dialogue is brilliant, and many scenes remain entire in the mind, particularly the farcical home invasion. Not enough can be said about the acting, which is uniformly excellent. Michelle Giroux, sexy and menacing as the Lion Queen of the Dump; Gord Rand, appealing, smiling and sincere as the barefoot intruder with the fish-name, and the emotionally versatile Melody A. Johnson who goes from domestic to suicidal to amorous and then some, all present without flaw to my mind.
The only difficult moment I had with the production came, surprise, surprise, around the ending of it. There is a moment of resolution that isnt satisfying, but so absolute that the audience applauded, only to be offered another, really final scenea totally happy ending. Nothing wrong with that in itself, but, it is as if the resolution had no shadow, as if it did not contain the seeds of its own undoing. That is not quite consistent with the whole thrust of the play. But, that aside, the audience, myself included, gave an ovation, and left feeling fine.