Dates and Venue 17 May - 9 June 2007 @ 20.00 at The Pacific Theatre, 1420 West 12th Avenue
Reviewer Ed Farolan
Sherman, one of Canada's leading playwrights and recipient of a Governor General's Award for Drama, makes an adaptation of the biblical tale of Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 37-45). He sets the play between 1925 and 1946, tracing the journey of Joseph from Luzniki in Poland to Halifax, Toronto, and Ottawa. He rises to become an advisor to Prime Minister Mackenzie King, who is convinced that this Polish Jew could prophesy the future. He in fact prophesizes that King would again be Prime Minister in 1935.
The play is another reminder of how Canadian politics in the 1920s and 30s discriminated against Jews coming to Canada as refugees. Apparently, Mackenzie King was responsible for keeping Jews out of Canada together with Frederick Charles Blair, Director of Immigration, who was quoted as saying that "People should be kept out of Canada instead of being allowed in."
In this play, however, King who takes Joseph seriously, signs a document allowing 200 refugees to come in after Joseph confesses that he himself was a Jew and that his family was in the boatload of refugees landing in Canada.
I found the play quite provoking. The Trinity Western University drama students directed by Ron Reed were quite good in their delivery of lines. Many played multiple roles; only the lead, Joseph, played by Kirsty Proven, had no other roles.
There were questions, though, that popped up in my mind while watching the play. Why was Joseph, and most of the cast members, female actors? Has the Shakesperean concept of boys playing women gone the opposite way with women nowadays playing male roles? Mind you, these female drama students were very good playing various male roles.
Another question was why, at the end of the play, Joseph is not recognized by his father before he dies. Genesis clearly states that the father embraces Joseph after recognizing him, but Sherman's script is vague about this and it somehow bothered me.
There were also too many scenes that confused me and should have been edited. The play was almost two and a half hours long. An ideal production should last two hours or less (including intermission).
I also found that the use lighting effects to differentiate between dream sequences and reality was quite unclear. It was vague when a dream sequence would end and when reality started. There should have been more time and perhaps, sound effects, to make the distinctions clearer.
No doubt, though, the level of acting of these students is almost professional, and I look forward to seeing them again in future productions here in Vancouver theatres.
© 2007 Ed Farolan