If the plot summary is not enough to lure audiences towards the ever ensuing drama of Pacamambo, the performance speaks highly to the timeless epic, directed by Ken Gass – who is making his return to Toronto’s theatre scene with the reestablishment of Canadian Rep Theatre.
Pacamambo, written by Wajdi Mouawad and translated by Shelley Tepperman, portrays the common fear of death revealed through Julie’s (Amy Keating) catastrophic experience of losing her grandmother, Marie Marie (Kyra Harper), during an overnight stay at her apartment. Alone with a corpse and her dog, Growl (Michelle Polak), the two battle through the challenging feat of losing not only a loved one, but coming face-to-face with a reality that is bound to not only consume, but to transform us all.
The performance opens within a highly guarded psychiatric hospital depicting the ongoing struggle between the Psychiatrist (Karen Robinson) and Julie. The actors’ strong performances heighten the connection between the two characters, which in effect, provides the audience with not only a history, but raw realism before their eyes. If the relationship between the Psychiatrist and Julie is not enough, the companionship between Growl and Julie provokes further enjoyment for audiences of all ages.
As the performance progresses, the scenes fragment themselves throughout the white room, and throughout Julie’s twenty-three day experience spent in the storage room of Marie Marie’s apartment. The strong lighting design, created by Rebecca Picherack, parallels the script in many manners as to communicate the fervent emotions accustomed with the theme of death. This is not to say that the play is dark, but rather that it exemplifies the forgotten venues of children’s innocence and the corruption created by the process of growing up. Towards the end of the performance, Julie is finally confronted with what appears to be her figment of Death – a sultry, almost seductive character that assists in bringing the audience back to the gripping force at hand.
Part of this play’s great success – aside from the skilled acting and illustrated directional skills – lies within the questions left for the audience to consider. From a philosophical point of view, the play undoubtedly leaves you in wonder. Do dogs, if not all animals, know something that humans do not? At what point do we move beyond pure imagination and enter reality, if at all? But more importantly: when the colours fade, is it our job to add more?
As Pacamambo is a place where everyone decides for themselves, the play also touches upon social constructionist theories of identity, belonging, and race. The symbolism of perfume toys with the concept of materiality, stirring our cognitive perception of reality and moving beyond the senses. Pacamambo becomes a place where everyone is everyone else, thereby assisting the creation of identity and providing room for acceptance. If everyone is truly alike, who are we to judge?
Pacamambo runs until February 2 at The Citadel. Tickets range from PWYC to $36 for adults, with special discounts for students, seniors, and art workers. Family passes can also be purchased for this event, ranging from $48 to $72, depending on the evening of the performance. Visit www.canadianrep.wordpress.com or call 416-504-7529 for tickets.
photo credit: Jeremy Mimnagh
Featured in photo: Amy Keating, Michelle Polak, Kyra Harper