Review by Terry Gaisin
Carole Freshette’s allegorical play about searching – a lost piece of jewellery but symbolizing something far deeper and philosophical, has become an iconic Canadian standard. Often performed with one or two actors, the Cdn Rep Theatre and director Ken Gass utilizes three superb ladies all of whom interchange the lead or support roles. Akoua Amo-Adem; Zorana Sadiq & Helen Taylor take turns as a middle Eastern cab driver; bereft mother; disillusioned construction worker and the eponymous ‘Helen’. Their ability to transition between portrayals is seamless and Gass’s direction makes it easy for the audience to follow the flow and progress on stage. Photo by Michael Cooper
‘Helen’ retraces steps; retraces memories; and retraces impressions in her search – both practical and metaphysical. Taylor is the first to interpret the tourist with Sadiq as her cabbie. Her ‘Yallah’ (Arabic for forward or let’s go) could also be the theme of the whole mesmerizing and dramatic hour and a quarter . When they stop at Amo-Adem’s building, the frustrations and the powerful line “We lose things” is double-edged meaning the trinket as well as a home, society or even a life. She also manages to impact the audience as a mother looking for her son’s lost ball – again a symbolic item that is a miniscule part of a much more impacting loss.
We’ve seen two of the three in other professional portrayals and thus came to BPAC’s Studio Theatre with great expectations. We weren’t disappointed. With a set composed of a half-dozen odd-shaped boxes and a scarf/shawl as the stage, it is the sound, lighting and background music that provides atmosphere. The major impact comes from the ordinary costumed trio. And the term ‘impact’ is definitive. The intimacy of the venue is a perfect choice for such an endeavor.
The ‘Rep’ in Canadian Rep Theatre is a slang for repertory; a system where the players perform in more than just one role or play. Think SHAW or STRATFORD. The challenge is the requirement to know miriad lines, differing plots and diametric portrayals. To be part of such a company means one’s talents is in the apogee of the genre. To witness these three actors and director Gass’s level of expertise is certainly an experience. Unfortunately, the run of Helen’s Necklace locally is too brief.