By Drew Hayden Taylor Directed by Donna Spencer
Nov 4th - 27th
Reviewer: Frank C. Scott
On the subject of humour, Drew Hayden Taylor recently stated, "Before the healing can take place, the poison must first be exposed," and "A spoonful of sugar always makes the medicine go down."
alterNATIVES exposes enough poison to kill a lab full of rats, and the medicine going down is both sweet and sour. The result sparks both laughter and question.
The plays of Drew Hayden Taylor, a contemporary Ojibwa storyteller, are always full of social comment and humour. In the past, his social comments primarily dealt with natives or native issues. In this play, he goes far beyond and explores a world of contrasts, of preconceived conceptions, assumptions, philosophies, and food. We see cultures clash, relationships tested, and vegetarians fighting with moose meat eaters. In writing it, Taylor states, "it made me question many beliefs and conceptions I held dear."
This wickedly funny play centers on a dinner party hosted by Colleen and Angel. Colleen, a Jewish professor of native studies, lives with Angel, her young Ojibwa lover. Her passion for native studies is far greater than for her lover; so, when she invites two of her friends, Michelle and Dale, to a dinner party, her intention is only to show off her prized native catch. Angel just wants to have a good time, forget that he's an Ojibwa, and write science fiction.
Michelle and Dale are vegetarians, embroiled in the bliss and boredom of married life. Michelle's passion is drinking wine and her desire is getting to know this new young Ojibwa lover in Colleen's life. Dale is a likable character, mild mannered, and lets Michelle dominate his life.
Already, there is plenty to satirize but the fun is only just beginning because Yvonne and Bobby are about to arrive. They are the friends from Angel's secret past that Colleen has hunted down to solicit information from. Yvonne and Bobby are the alterNATIVES, a new young breed of modern day warriors whose sword is their mind. Each has a tongue sharper than the axe they grind and from here the great dinner party begins to disassemble. I won't tell you the ending because it's worth going to see for yourself, but I will tell you this: soft-spoken Dale, the mild mannered vegetarian, happily gorges on moose meat.
The entire cast was great in assimilating their characters although the opening sequence between Colleen and Angel, (Jennifer Fahrni & Darrell Dennis) seemed weak and unbelievable. Diane Brown and Forbes Angus both seemed comfortable in their husband-wife role of Michelle and Dale and offered up most of the comedic moments for the evening.
Artistic Producer, Donna Spencer, deserves credit for her splendid direction in this production and for her dedication to promoting Native-Canadian talent.
I leave you with the words of Drew Hayden Taylor. "As a writer, all I try to do is simply create some interesting characters, tell an interesting story, and take the audience on an interesting journey."