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Pacific Theatre

The Hungry Season
By Jennifer Morrison Hendrix

Dates 25 January - 27 February 2006 Venue Pacific Theatre Reviewer Ed Farolan

The Hungry Season by American playwright Jennifer Morrison Hendrix makes its Canadian premiere here in Vancouver. It is a poignant and touching play set simultaneously in a small US town called County Line and Tula, Nigeria. Scene designer Kevin McAllister designed the stage to make the scene changes recognizable as one scene shifts from Africa to the US.

It's a play about missionaries in the early 20th century who considered going to dangerous, isolated regions in the world as "a higher calling". In this particular drama, it explores the sacrifices of these missionaires who have to leave their children behind, a choice they have to make because of their calling.

Katherine Venour, who received a Jessie nomination for her role as St. Joan, plays the mother of two daughters in this play. She leaves her daughter with her sister in her hometown, as she pursues her missionary work. Ron Reed as her husband acts as a matter-of-fact missionary who seems to accept this fact. He doesn't show the emotions of Venour, which is correctly acted, as men in this period had to hide their emotions.

Martha Schmidt plays Chy, the aunt who takes care of the girls. The scene where both sisters talk about their different needs was powerfully acted. Chy's calling was, in her view, a humbler one - to just live in this small town and take care of her nieces. A thought occurred to me that perhaps this was an even higher calling than the missionaries who ventured to distant lands.

Stuart Pierre, a member of the Sto:Lo First Nations is Chinga, who serves the missionaries. His role gives dignity and respect to indigenous traditions which in the past would have been considered barbaric and pagan to Christians.

Finally, the daughters portrayed two different personalities: a more emotional and temperamental Tina, the younger daughter, played by Lori Kokotallo, as opposed to a more mature and stable Laura (Erin Boourke). Both portrayed their roles well.

Director Morris Ertman co-directs the play with Anthony F. Ingram who produced and starred in a recent Pacific Theatre production of The Elephant Man. Kudos to them for giving this compelling play the simple mise-en-scene, yet delivering the complex, philosophical and religious enigma of what missionaries felt as their spiritual calling.

© 2006 Ed Farolan