It’s been a while, and if anything I swear it’s gotten further away than it used to be, but I still took the plunge the other night and braved a blizzardy ride on OC Transpo to make it out to Kanata for a spot of theatre at the spiffy Ron Maslin Playhouse. And while it ain’t exactly easy making ones way into the RMP on foot (Kanata is, in general, not geared towards pedestrians I find), I somehow managed to make it inside, and tried not to think about how long it would take me to get back home afterwards.
But first things first, and that thing was NIGHT SKY by Susan Yankowitz, and directed by Alain Chamsi for Kanata Theatre. The story follows Anna (Tania Carriere), a brilliant if self-absorbed Astronomy Professor on the verge of worldwide fame resulting from a paper she’s working on. Another result is a massive strain on her relationships with daughter Jennifer (Alexandra Dunlop) and opera-singing boyfriend Daniel (Allan Ross),as well as a mild case of professional jealousy from fellow Astronomer Bill (Harold Swaffield). All of this is thrown for ten thousand kinds of loops when Anna is in a traffic accident that renders her aphasic…unable to find the words with which to give her thoughts form, essentially a prisoner in her own mind. Anna’s life makes a massive shift, including a new speech therapist (Shelley-Jean Harrison), fellow patients like Lucy (Cheryl Zimmer), and numerous strangers who are less than understanding of someone who has trouble making themselves understood (including multiple characters played by Julia Koppernaes, among others).
Aphasia is a disorder that is as misunderstood as the heavens that Anna spends her life studying, and the comparisons are woven nicely into the text and production, aided by some gorgeous galactic imagery projected on the back stage. Tania Carriere, a Kanata theatre vet, delivers impressive work as the omnipresent Anna, especially in the clearly tricky second and third acts when her words are failing her and her life is, if not unravelling, then rapidly reconstructing into something new whether she likes it or not. Ross and Dunlop are likewise solid as Anna’s family unit, never fading peacefully into the background and continuing to challenge Anna despite her own struggles. Swaffield has some calming and clever moments of narrative, using the motif of delivering lectures to further the overarching metaphor of the stars, even merrily involving Schrodinger’s Cat into the mix. And Cheryl Zimmer delivers some awesome work as Lucy, quietly and efficiently stealing scenes here and there with just a word or two.
NIGHT SKY is a strong entry from Kanata Theatre, a little slow in parts here and there but with its aim settled firmly enough among the stars that it can’t help but lift you up just a little by the end. It was, I confess, worth the trip out (tho I’m still deciding about the 2 hours it took me to get back home, oy…). Peace love and soul,
Kevin Reid (and Winston)