Monday, February 20, 2012

“As if this collection of

things is what she is. So we fall in love with ghosts.”

Michael Ondaatje, Divisadero

the revival & reflection of exciting new formats

“The prismatic structure of his novel lets Ondaatje revive and reflect old stories in new formats. His title, "Divisadero," has two meanings, both pertinent to the plot shift. The first comes from the Spanish word for "division." The second derives from divisar, meaning "to gaze from a distance." From a distance, patterns and echoes emerge: lost mothers, forbidden love, estranged fathers, twins and triangles, loneliness. If Anna is the writer of Segura's tale, as she seems to be, the Petaluma story is thrown into lovely relief by its French counterpart. As she says, "We live permanently in the recurrence of our own stories, whatever story we tell."

For anyone who has never read a novel by Michael Ondaatje, the current performance project at Theatre Passe Muraille could be a thrilling introduction to his work as it takes part in the revival and reflection of exciting “new formats.”

The re-mount of this two hour tour de force represents a beautiful rendering of literature onstage that stands on its own as a kind of theatrical hybrid that may impress even the most devout fans of Ondaatje on the page.

"For we live with those retrievals from childhood that coalesce and echo throughout our lives, the way shattered pieces of glass in a kaleidoscope reappear in new forms and are songlike in their refrains and rhymes, making up a single monologue. We live permanently in the recurrence of our own stories, whatever story we tell.”

Michael Ondaatje, Divisadero

On the stage, in the hands of veteran actors Maggie Huculak and Tom McCamus, the language is as rich, as flowing, and as thoroughly engaging as the poetic pages of the acclaimed authors works. In collaboration with Ondaatje and a brilliant ensemble director Daniel Brooks has been able to create a fascinating configuration of music and voice that constantly surprises the eye and ear as all of the elements blend seamlessly, replete with soothing poetic moments cut with shrieking playfulness, and one thrilling scene where the diverse musical stylings of Amy Rutherford provide an entertaining segment that channels the likes of Marianne Faithful, Patti Smith, and Leonard Cohen. Brooks’ directorial expertise/prowess is in full force here as the performer utilizes a relatively small area in which to thoroughly physicalize intense moments of emotional expression.

For spectators more familiar with the direct, plot-invested action of more traditional theatre it may all seem a bit slow going at the very beginning. But it is well worth the wait as one settles into this dark stroll through the lives of traumatized individuals whose fated paths seem destined to divide and unify them in harrowing and haunting ways.

Ultimately the gorgeous sounds of Huculak’s incredibly measured, deliberate storytelling mode, alongside McCamus’s impeccable characterizations of three very distinct characters, turn the performance into an expertly crafted novel for the stage. Juno nominee/folksinger-cum-actor Justin Rutledge’s beautifully layered singing, combined with brief sensual moments with Amy Rutherford’s complex and richly conceived Bridget, alongside Liane Balaban’s equally as mesmerizing Claire, produce an overall effect that is at once poignant, breathtaking, and shot through with moments of great beauty and conflicted joy.




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