Wednesday, January 22, 2014



The inaugural season of the Canadian Rep Theatre began at the Citadel this week with a
powerful and evocative production of Wajdi Mouawad's Pacamambo. Shelley Tepperman's translation is a direct and effective version of the text that might have delved a little more deeply into the poetic language that the metaphoric properties of the script suggests. Nevertheless, in the hands of a wonderful ensemble, and under the concise direction of artistic director Ken Gass, the initial Canadian Rep Theatre production is a tremendous beginning for the company.  

Primarily a dance space, the Citadel was transformed by the stark white of Marian Wihak's wonderful rectangular playing area, creating a spare minimalist effect that gives the actors, and a few sharply defined props, a spacious environment to inhabit in a tightly choreographed array of blocking and creative movement. Jung-Hye Kim's simple costuming, effectively dividing the symbolic from the real through the use of black and white for two characters, and grey-ish tones for the day to day wear of the other players, give the overall drama a very crisp feeling appropriate to the glaring emotion and intrusive interrogation that the narrative embraces.

Kyra Harper as Marie Marie delivered a beautifully understated performance through the use of impassioned/smouldering vocal skill and great physical agility as she navigated the confines of a very mutable bed that moved across the stage - becoming a kind of elegant cage-cum-lumbering-slumbering confine.

Michelle Polak created an entertaining, frequently moving form of comic relief in the midst of very serious scenes as the Moon/Growl presence. Her canine prowess gave great credibility and physical diversity to an extremely difficult role that, in the hands of a less skilled performer, could have become a kind of light, not easily digested form of parodic play.  

Karen Robinson as the psychiatrist began with a commanding presence that never faltered as she played dual parts with a very strong, and committed performance well-suited to the well-meaning yet decidedly institutionalized, at times symbolic quality of her roles. When Robinson re-enters near the end of the play, a very simple change to to her sharply defined costume allows her already established eloquence and passion to morph into a razor sharp connection to the central motif of the play.

Death permeates the narrative yet uplifts, entertains, and ultimately enlightens as audiences are drawn into a sixty five minute journey through a young woman's introduction to one of life's most difficult lessons. As Julie, the central inquisitor and wide-eyed traveler on the road to Pacamambo, Amy Keating is consistently believable and extremely engaging as an angst ridden teen in pursuit of symbols, hope, and poetic emotional support as she makes her way through loss, canine camaraderie, and the poignant, timeworn trauma of adolescent enlightenment. 


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