Saturday, February 27, 2016


The current production of David French’s iconic Canadian play Salt Water Moon – playing at Factory Theatre until March 13 – is a brilliant version of a haunting, subtly explosive bit of national history. 

In 1985 French managed to explore, in a seemingly simple two hander, the intricacies and intimacies of a ruptured relationship as a gesture toward the ruptured nature of political history and how it can affect both personal and national identity. Set in 1926 in Newfoundland, by the sea, all the romantic trappings are at hand as lovers enmesh themselves in memory, loss, abandonment, and sheer physical longing. 

Voting against joining Canada in 1869, Newfoundland began its varied history as an extension of complex colonization, becoming a part of Canada in 1949 after a lengthy period as an independent Dominion. The Depression and then the Second World War played key parts in the region’s complex history. In Salt Water Moon the elements of separation and eventual union are characterized by a young couple on the verge of love and warfare – simultaneously – in love with the image and the idea of each other but never quite knowing who they might be and what they might want.  

                                                                           DIRECTOR RAVI JAIN
Directed by Ravi Jain, the only crucial thing missing in this production is an intense sense of desire. It does come across as an obvious element of the mutual, conflicted attraction, but during an early performance the interaction could have been somewhat more intense given the stakes of this ninety-minute sexually charged journey through very young love compromised by separation. Within the promise and the disappointment of a very large, very young country, the characters are remembering a single exciting moment that occurred a year before they meet – on stage – by the sea, to rekindle what might have been. 

                                                                      MAYKO NGUYEN AS MARY SNOW
A bare playing space covered in unlit candles sets the tone for this minimalist production. As small flames light and flicker, constellations of emotional strategies – drenched in denial and material need – gain a filtered darkness, filled with points of life, within which to materialize.  Kawa Ada as Jacob Mercer and Mayko Nguyen as Mary Snow take full command of the stage as the direction clearly and concisely enables their characters to rid themselves of traditional notions of naturalistic costume and setting, and focus upon the words they are speaking. In crisp, emotive tones, without any excessive emotion - yet retaining a smouldering intensity throughout that might have been played (during an early performance) with light physical abandon – the performers bring a unique clarity to the local accents and phrasings employed by the playwright. 

By adding a third character in the form of a self-accompanied singer, Jain has given the play an incredible meta-narrative that includes the stage directions – memorized and spoken by the singer at various intervals. The written emotions, described by the playwright in the script, are resisted by the actors as they are spoken by the onstage singer. Ania Soul, as the musician, possesses a beautiful haunting voice that opens the play, and continues throughout the entire ninety minutes in varied from, from snippets of lyrics written into the script as well as instrumentally inclined vocalizing as romantic atmosphere surrounding the dialogue.
                                                                      ANIA SOUL - MUSICIAN
Paradoxically, this production strips away excessive emotion and theatrical paraphernalia and exposes the diversity of a Canadian landscape that has been too often marginalized and neglected - in a country that has spent a considerable period of time trying to embrace it’s multi-cultural heritage. Ravi Jain’s vision of Salt Water Moon adds fresh new life to an old Canadian classic.
                                                                      KAWA ADA AS JACOB MERCER


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