The Cultch & Off The Corner Productions

WHEN & WHERE February 18 - 21, 2021 | Livestream online from The Cultch

Co-Directors: Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, Jiv Parasram; Dramaturg: Joanna Garfinkel; Producer: Shanae Sodhi; Co-Producer: Lili Robinson; Costume, Makeup, Hair: C.S. Fergusson-Vaux; Lighting: Fil Wiatrak; Sound: Todd Simmons; Sets & Props: Ariel Slack; Choreography: Marisa Gold; Stage Manager: Heather Barr; Technical Director: Cody Biles; Audio: Kyra Soko & Chris Engleman; Video: Kaden O’Reilly; Head Electrician: Nicole Weismiller; Videographer: Cameron Anderson; Camera: Cristian Oriak

Reviewer Christian Steckler

In our colonial and post-colonial world, we are confronted with the sad consequences of inequities resulting from past actions, hardened into social systems that threaten to perpetuate inequality, and erase any consciousness of the reasons for it. There is danger here because if we ignore the causes of inequity, we lose sight of the solutions to it. The harm has not only societal consequences, but individual, personal consequences as well.

Mx is an exploration, within this reality, of identity and belonging through a personal lens. Lili Robinson’s writing masterfully lays out the confusion of the issue of racial identity for mixed-race individuals, and carefully inserts sexual identity into the mix to highlight the commonality of misunderstandings regarding both. Max is a non-binary, mixed-race character who is trying to come to some satisfactory conclusion and personal comfort regarding their racial identity. Raised by a white mother, with the black father absent, Max is confused as to which race or ethnicity to identify with. This confusion is compounded by issues of commonly-used labels and attitudes regarding sexual identity. The performance focuses on the struggle between both identities, black and white, that could satisfy Max’s desire - indeed, need - to belong.

The strong acting of all the players makes this a riveting performance. Robinson’s performance as Max is powerful and poignant. Alisha Davidson’s portrayal of Mz. Nancy, advocating for Max’s black identity, is outstanding. Strong, persuasive, and indefatigable, Mz. Nancy pushes Max to recognize the reality of the presence of her black ancestors, always there, hitherto unrecognized. Emily Jane King as Samantha gives an equally penetrating performance, trying to persuade Max to settle on a white identity, using flattery and shallow promises of comfort to add Max to the collection of mixed-race people who, not feeling that they belong, settle for the “white” label. The Map, ably voiced by Ivy Charles, guides Max with answers and suggestions on this attempt to solve their identity problem.

This is a technically brilliant production. Well-deserved kudos go to all those unseen, whose talents are instrumental in creating this riveting livestream production. Biles, Wiatrak, Simmons, Soko, Engleman, O’Reilly, Weismiller, Anderson and Oriak shine in their technical abilities. Jenelle Rouse, Courage Bacchus and Hodan Youssouf, the ASL team, commendably bring this production to the deaf. All of these people make it possible for the community-at-large to join in this historically important moment of self-reflection and reckoning.

Mx is an important theatrical piece. It highlights the deep individual need to know oneself and where to place oneself. It raises as many questions as it seeks to answer, and reminds us that equity issues in the post-colonial era are complicated, especially as colonialism continues. It is a worthwhile exercise, highly entertaining, and thought-provoking. With luck, it will generate answers, actions, and progress.

© 2021 Christian Steckler