It’s one thing to go see a play in Niagara, but the opportunity to see a play that is set on a Niagara farm is a very special event indeed.
White Crow, by Niagara-based playwright Dawn E. Crysler and produced by the Essential Collective Theatre Company, tells the story of a Pelham family coming to grips with their changing father as he begins to fall victim to dementia. Running a farm, as most Niagara residents know, is hard enough to manage with a healthy family let alone someone suffering from mental illness.
We were fortunate to see the play during an opening night sell-out and are very happy to report that it was fantastic! It was a real pleasure and unique night out.
Inspired by personal experiences growing up on a farm and battling her own father’s illness, Dawn weaves a tale of intrigue, humour, and loss. Not only the playwright but also taking on the daughter’s role, Dawn narrates the journey and frankly addresses the audience in a compassionate and intimate way.
I compensated for his weaknesses, to remember his greatness. – Dawn E. Crysler (playwright and role of Daughter)
White Crow has a dedicated and talented group of actors in addition to Dawn. The role of Father is portrayed by Lorne Kennedy, who has performed in over 100 shows across Canada as well as a member of the Shaw Festival ensemble. And the role of Mom is being brought to life by Patricia LaRiviere, who has toured locally and internally with Theatre Beyond Words. All actors are Niagara-based which adds a proud element of community involvement to the production.
The actors addressed the topic of dementia with touching sincerity. It was difficult to watch but with the right amount of levity added, White Crow was a pleasure to sit through.
The Courthouse Theatre stage provided an intimate venue and the clever use of minimalist set design and limited props kept the emphasis on the performance of the actors. Interacting with many of the same objects throughout the production, the actors were vibrant and kept everything fresh. Costume choices were relatable while the choice of lighting and special effects complimented the production without going over-the-top.
All actors delivered their lines without fault and great care, while slipping into the actual characters they were portraying. I did not find myself aware of the ‘acting’ and instead believed I was watching a story unfold before my eyes.
All of this is quite the feat given that the 3 actors and production staff had less than three weeks to rehearse.
White Crow has a poetic sensibility about it. With exciting language, the play is simple yet evocative.
Even though the play is mainly fictitious, the topic of dementia is a relatable one. Approximately 50% of people over the age of 80 are affected by this form of dementia. Whether it’s someone you know or you yourself, you are likely touched by it.
Sitting down to discuss the play with Monica Dufault, the director, we are given a better perspective. Monica explains that it’s her belief to do all that you can in the place where you are, not just keep looking ahead or elsewhere. That it’s rewarding to see local work in the region and to help create that craft. White Crow has received incredible local feedback with a grassroots buzz. She has been approached by several strangers inquiring about the play and the Essential Collective Theatre Company is gaining local recognition.
The Essential Collective Theatre Company, founded by Jason Cadieux and Stephanie Jones, has a noble goal of building a canon of Niagara plays. With a regional focus, they’ve made a commitment to focus more on Niagara playwrights. White Crow is their third such play.
The play will be running from Thursday, Nov. 22 through Sunday, Dec. 2 at the Sullivan Mahoney Courthouse Theatre in downtown St. Catharines. Please go and see White Crow before it ends. Support the local community, Niagara-based playwrights, and a play featuring a Niagara environment. This is a unique opportunity and one that shouldn’t be missed!
White Crow by Dawn E. Crysler
Directed by Monica Dufault
November 22nd to December 2, 2012
Sullivan Mahoney Courthouse Theatre
101 King Street, Downtown St. Catharines
Daughter – Dawn E. Crysler
Dad – Lorne Kennedy
Mom – Patricia LaRiviere
Sound & Lighting Design – Gavin Fearon
Set, Costume & Props Design – Michael Greves
Stage Manager – Diane Konkin
Sound Operator – Finn Archinuk
Running Crew – Carol Lewis