Review by Ellen S. Jaffe
July 30th, ‘17
For those who have long experience of riding and being around horses, Allan Merovitz’s show, Horses (recently at the Pearl Company in Hamilton and coming to Toronto) will bring back warm memories. Even for those, like me, who don’t know horses well, the show is enjoyable and moving; it restored a few of my own memories. Merovitz, a singer and story-teller, has performed several of his one-man shows in Hamilton in the past, and also acted in plays by local theatre companies. He captivates the audience through his warm, engaging manner. In this show, he tells stories and sings both original and traditional songs.
Merovitz performs on guitar and mandolin, accompanied by the talented and delightful Tina Kiik on accordion. Tina makes the accordion come alive, and I heard the instrument in a new way.
The narrative thread that runs through Horses is Allan’s memory of working with the Caravan Stage Company in B.C. The company is still active today, but Allan’s stories come from the late 1970s-early 1980’s, when the company travelled around the Okanagan Valley and other rural areas, with six wagons pulled by Clydesdale horses. Their aim was “to bring original theatrical productions directly into the lives of people who seldom had the opportunity to experience the performing arts.” They wanted to “create a theatre of hope and celebration,” believing theatre and other arts should give people “a sense of their own worth and power.” (see caravanstage.org/history). Allan shares some vivid experiences from those days, including riding the horses through a field of about sixty grazing mule deer and, later, having an accident with a wagon wheel.
He starts his story long before that, however, tracing the development of the horse from a prehistoric creature to the animal we know today, and its geographic path from North America to the Steppes of Asia and back again. He talks about the horse’s importance to people throughout the world, from the Arabs and Spanish to the Mongols to the Roma to Indigenous tribes on the plains of North America (Cheyenne, Crow, Lakota, Apache, among others). He quotes a “wise woman’s” saying that “in the ascent from barbarism to civility, the horse has made us more human.”
He also talks about growing up in Montreal, with grandparents who loved horses. His beloved “bubbe” (grandmother) would give him carrots to feed the local milkman’s horse. Later, he and his father shared a love of riding at their farm in Smith’s Falls, Ontario. Allan described how his grandmother’s family had worked with horses for many generations, moving from Spain to Smyrna (now Izmir, in Turkey), and finally to Bessarabia, where she met his grandfather and they immigrated to Montreal.
The songs inspired by these stories range from Yiddish lullabies and traditional cowboy tunes to Allan’s own songs about love, grief, nature, even pogroms and the Klan. The two-act show held my attention from beginning to end, and despite the bare stage, I could see “in mind’s eye” all the vistas he described. Lighting and sound were by Gary Santucci of the Pearl Company, and this intimate setting was a good venue.
Allan and Tina will perform the show again in Toronto, at the Barbershop, 250 Sheppard Ave. West, August 3,4,5 at 8:00 p.m. and August 6 at 2:00 p.m.