Mourning Dove

Dates and Venue 17 October - 15 November 2008, Wed – Sat @ 8pm (matinees Sat 2pm) | Pacific Theatre

Director Angela Konrad, Set and Costume Design Alison Green, Lighting Matthew Frankish Stage Management Lois Dawson

Reviewer John Jane

Montreal playwright Emil Sher in writing his thought-provoking play Mourning Dove, took his inspiration from the short, tragic life of Tracy Latimer and her father, Saskatchewan farmer Robert Latimer, who was subsequently incarcerated for Tracy's death. There are obvious parallels between Latimer's declared "mercy killing" (euthanasia) and Sher's fictional account of the Ramsay's struggle with their daughter, Tina.

I've never particularly liked Pacific Theatre's double-sided seating arrangement in the basement of the Holy Trinity Anglican Church. If you're unfortunate enough to be seated in the north-east corner, you can find yourself peering down at the stage through the safety railings.

One advantage however, is the opportunity to walk across the stage and take in the set designer's work at close range. Laughlin Johnston's set is certainly worth that closer look. Constructed as a carpenter's workshop, complete with paint splashes and sawdust on the floor, there is a half finished arc (think biblical Noah) to the east and a workbench on the opposite wall with a seemingly unlimited range of tools

Though not the central character, Ron Reed turns in a tour de force performance as the mentally challenged Keith. The part might have been originally intended for a younger man, but Reed makes the role his own; at times playing the character with playful innocence - other times with anger and frustration with his lack of control over the events surrounding him.

Kerry van der Griend and Anita Wittenburg are truly heroic as Doug and Sandra Ramsay, the afflicted parents of a child with chronic cerebral palsy who are untrained and ill-equipped to handle their burden.

Van der Griend purposely avoids drawing sympathy to his character and leaves responsibility for the moral compass through Wittenburg's role. The role of Tina Ramsay is never seen - only heard through the voice of Laura Van Dyke. Her position during the performance is represented by the effect of a spotlight on the stage floor.

Director Angela Konrad deals with the controverial subject matter with discretion and sensitivity and Matthew Frankish's lighting cleverly guides the audience through time and space.

The audience is left to determine whether he was attempting to end Tina's suffering or his own and some may condemn Doug Ramsay for playing God. Of course, unless one is confronted directly with this dilemma - it's really hypothetical.

© 2008 John Jane