The Patron Saint of Stanley Park
By Hiro Kanagawa

Dates and Venue 25 November - 26 December 2010, 8pm (Tuesdays 7:30pm, Wed & Sat matinees 2pm) | Revue Stage, Granville Island

Director Stephen Drover Set Designer Naomi Sider Costume Designer Carmen Alatorre Lighting Designer Conor Moore Sound Designer Noah Drew Dramaturg Rachel Ditor Stage Manager Marion Anderson

Reviewer Cassie Silva

One would assume the terms “magical holiday fable” and “sci-fi” wouldn’t be complementary to one another. Well, you know what happens when you assume.

Hiro Kanagawa set out to write a commissioned science fiction play, and wound up creating a love letter to Christmas, family, good tidings, and to Stanley Park itself. The premise may initially sound like a stereotypical holiday story – scruffy vagabond helps struggling family learn the true Christmas spirit, just in the nick of time. But through the addition of some fantastic elements – including a life-size Bigfoot, an on-stage ice storm, and the most creative staging I’ve seen yet this year, this simple holiday story becomes something truly magical.

Jillian Fargey is touching in her role as Marcia - a woman struggling to come to terms with the disappearance of her husband, who vanished while piloting a plane near Prospect Point last Christmas Eve. Fifteen-year-old Valsy Bergeron gave a very strong performance as Marcia’s rebellious teenage daughter, and Joseph Gustafson stole the show as the young son who holds out hope that his father might still return. Brian Linds delighted as the likeable Skookum Pete, a disheveled vagabond living in Stanley Park, and Derek Metz gave a powerful performance as Kevin. The show started off a bit slow, but soon became mesmerizing.

What really drew the audience in were the multiple references to local events and occurrences – for instance, Fargey’s character was a struggling store owner suffering a loss of business due to ongoing road construction – sound familiar? The show is also worth attending just to see how the company stages the brutal storm that battered Stanley Park several winters ago.

Naomi Sider’s set is surprisingly simple, yet gradually becomes more complex as the plot progresses. Noah Drew’s sound design and Conor Moore’s lighting design were most impressive and added a whole new mystical dimension to the production.

While there may have been a few too many take-away messages to keep track of, the show was satisfying on a deeper level. Judging from the sniffles heard around me from fellow audience members, and the conversations sparked at intermission, Patron Saint may soon take its place on the list of returning annual Arts Club holiday favourites.

Patron Saint was certainly a love letter to Vancouver. One thing is guaranteed - I’ll never look at a scruffy man pushing a buggy around town quite the same way again.

© 2010 Cassie Silva