Firehall Arts Centre
by Rahul Varma
Complex multi-cultural play
by Jane Penistan
Counter Offence is a complex and complicated play about multi-cultural issues and mores. Episodic in style, the work demonstrates the clash of family, racial, political and gender related values. Varma has given his actors scope for the development of their various characters' personalities.
These are almost familiar stereotypes but they are more real and sympathetic than cardboard cutouts.
In this production the most successful performance is that of Rekha Sharma as Shazia Rizvi. Torn by her loyalty and love for her abusive husband Shapoor Farhadi (Daniel Bacon), regarded as a dutiful and much-loved daughter by her parents, Murad Rizvi (Steadwick D'Penha) and Shafiqa Rizvi (Fif Fernandes), and advised by the well meaning but insensitive social worker, Clarinda Keith (Kathleen Dick), Shazia remains steadfastly her own person. She has had the courage and enterprise to become the financial support of both her husband and her parents, but feels the added burden of Shapoor's parents with their uncertain business venture, is too much for her already overtaxed capabilities.
Her refusal to comply with her husband's wishes and her endurance of his physical assaults make her both victim and victor in the quarrel. Similarly, her refusal to leave her husband, or charge him with assault, enrages her parents and confuses and confounds the social worker. When accused of Shapoor's murder her shock and distress at her husband's death exonerate her. This difficult role is well sustained and believable.
Moolchand Misra, the self-serving crafty lawyer, (Parm Soor), is well realized and though his delivery is sometimes a little slow, he provides some much needed humour. Both parents display affection, but are bewildered by their daughter's independance, and her refusal to abandon her husband.
Daniel Bacon fails to bring enough initial tension into his performance as Shapoor, so that his subsequent hysterical behaviour does not ring true.
Neither of the two policemen, John Destry as Gilles Prougault and Peter Scoular, Guy Gilliard, are quite credible and Kathleen Dick's Clarinda Keith lacks conviction.
This dark drama is played before a black background with each separate episode brightly lit in a section of the stage. The furnishings are sparse but adequate and accentuated by touches of strong colour. Tyler Tone's costumes help define the characters and are in keeping with with their personalities.
The director, Donna Spencer, has presented the problems with which the play deals with clarity. A lot of questions are posed for the audience to ponder.
Counter Offence runs at The Firehall Arts Centre. 280 East Cordova Street, February 10 - 26, 2000, at 8pm, Tue (2 for 1) 8pm, Wed - Sat 8pm. Matinees: Sat 2pm, Sun 4pm. Previews: (2 for1) Feb10, 11 8 pm, Feb 12 2pm. Pay-What-You-Can: Feb 16, 23 1 pm. Tickets: Adults 12to $18, Student/Senior $10 to $16. Firehall Arts Centre Box Office (604) 689-0926.