Theatre Inconnu/ITSAZOO Productions
by Wajdi Mouawad

Dates and Venue 19-31 Jan 2010 @ 8pm Sat/Sun matinee 2pm| Waterfront Theatre, Granville Island, Vancouver

Reviewer Ed Farolan

This is an excellent play from Lebanese-Canadian playwright Wajdi Mouawad translated to English from French by Linda Gaboriau, about the legend of a heroine, the "singing woman", in one of the many wars of Lebanon, this one, in 1978. However, productionwise, a smaller venue should have been chosen as the Waterfront Stage was too big a stage for a production with so few characters, a play meant for intimate theatre. This is a kind of play that would perform better, I believe, in Performance Works or the Carousel Theatre in Granville Island.

From a directorial point of view, though, the play was quite well-directed. The pacing was good, the actors' internalization was excellent, and the lighting design was quite unique. I liked the idea of the lights coming in from the wings, and when the actors came in for their scenes, there were front spots as well as back spots, sometimes simultaneously to depict two scenes. Simple but effective. The only fault I found was the play was too long. It could have been edited to two hours instead of the almost three hours that it was. At any rate, kudos to co-directors Clayton Jevene and Graham McDonald.

Naomi Simpson as Sawda/Nazira stood out in this play. She had excellent projection. Casey Austin as Nawal had great moments of acting, but failed to keep up projectionwise with Simpson. Simpson would be at a certain dramatic level during some exchanges, and Austin couldn't keep up with her. There was no consistency in voice projection, perhaps because of too much internalization, and despite the fact that I was in the fourth row, I could hardly hear her.

Michael Shewchuk as Simon fit the role to a T, both physically, with the muscles of an amateur boxer he portrays, and Cara Yeates as Janine/Jihane/Elhamethe was excellent as the twin sister of Simon, the Mathematics professor in search of her brother and father in the remote recesses of Lebanon .

It's a pity that there were only a handful of people during the Saturday matinee I attended and hopefully, this Victoria company will get a bigger audience in their next shows. There's just too much competition here in Vancouver, too many good shows going on at the same time. When I attended the Victoria Fringe, the shows that were sold out there got half or less than half an audience when they came to perform at the Vancouver Fringe.

© 2010 Ed Farolan