Where the River Meets the Sea by Patti Flather

Dates and Venue 19 March – 4 April 2009, 8 pm & 28 March at 2:30pm | Presentation House Theatre, North Vancouver

Director Brenda Leadlay Set & Costume Design Karyn McCallum Lighting Eugene Mendelev Stage Manager Sarah Pearson

Reviewer John Jane

The Musqueam band has lived in their present location, now considered to be Metro Vancouver for several hundred years. Their name relates to the river grass that grows in abundance at the mouth of the Fraser River. Where the River Meets the Sea is a story of a mother and daughter and their return to the place once nurtured by their ancestors.

When Jade (Kim Harvey) enters onto the stage playing with a soccer ball and plugged-in to her iPod, she looks just like any Aboriginal teenager who has had to grow up within two conflicting cultures. But Jade has had a troubled life. Raised by a loving, single mother, Lu-Anne (Carmen Moore) who left life on “the rez” to flee from an abusive relationship with Jade’s father, she has been relocated too many times to be good for her education.

Just when Lu-Anne and Jade return to Vancouver and seem to finally settle into a normal routine, their lives and relationship are thrown into turmoil; first by Dayne (David Patrick Fleming), an ambitious property developer who strikes up a fast friendship with Lu-Anne and then by Karina (Maija Tailfeathers), a mysterious young visitor who is searching for her half-sister whom she has never met.

When Jade discovers that Karina is her paternal sister and her anger is further piqued when Dayne proposes to Lu-Anne, it causes a serious rift in her normally close kinship with her mother. Jade must now spend her sixteenth birthday examining difficult choices and making some very adult decisions.

Newcomers Kim Harvey and Maija Tailfeathers turn in powerful performances as two young Aboriginal women who have had to adjust to mainstream culture while preserving their valuable heritage. Harvey in particular gives an intelligent portrayal of the defiant teenager.

Carmen Moore returns to the stage after a lengthy absence. She has a formidable stage presence but on this occasion I felt that she overplayed the role of the fearful single mother. Moore’s real life beau, David Patrick Fleming in some respects, might have had the most difficult role as Lu-Anne’s suitor, since his character is peripheral to the storyline.

The fifth member of the cast, Brenda Hanson is unseen until the final bows. Her haunting delivery of the musical prayer in the Halkomelem language is integral to Patti Flather’s bittersweet tale.

Karen McCallum’s two-tiered set of a driftwood shrewn shoreline and Lu-Anne’s fabric store is simple, yet imaginative and combines well with Eugene Mendelev’s smart lighting.

Director Brenda Leadlay obviously benefited from a close working association with the playwright in presenting this affecting story with humanity rather than sentimentality.

© 2009 John Jane