WHERE THE BLOOD MIXES by Kevin Loring, directed by Glynis Leyshon (Playhouse Theatre/Savage Society). At Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst). To Sunday (June 8). $35. 416-872-1111. Rating: NNN
Several shows arrive at Luminato with lots of bells and whistles. Black Watch and A Midsummer Night's Dream are certainly impressive with stagings that carry dramatic fire power.
But don't forget the smaller, more intimate shows that rely on simplicity to make their emotional point. That's the case with native writer Kevin Loring's Where The Blood Mixes, which has its last performance this afternoon at Factory Theatre.
Set in the Aboriginal village of Kumsheen, the play looks at the devastating effect that the residential schools have had on the adults of the community, who make up most of the characters in the play. Floyd (Billy Merasty), Mooch (Ben Cardinal) and June (Margo Kane) have all grown up with the guilt, shame and self-hatred that the institution bred in them.
The disquiet rises to the surface for Floyd when his daughter Christine (Quelemia Sparrow), given up to a white foster family, returns to meet the father she left years ago.
One of Loring's skills as a playwright is to blend the poetic and the realistic. On the one hand, he (along with visual designer Carl Stromquist, projection designer Jamie Nesbitt and lighting designer Itai Erdal) gives an imagistic feel to his characters, at times turning them into iconic if not downright archetypal figures. But he can as quickly turn around and provide the characters with down-to-earth bar chatter, questioning monologues that examine the tragedy in their lives and minimalist, heartfelt scenes of connection.
There are some wonderful scenes between Floyd and Mooch, the latter a funny, irreverent storyteller given vibrant life by Cardinal. Kane comes into her own later in the show, when June reveals her strength and also the key to healing, which relies on a reunion with the natural world.
The cast understands the core emotions in the figures and presents them with a quiet elegance that touches us deeply; director Glynis Leyshon encourages that simplicity of playing to let the work's humanity shine through.
Above: Ben Cardinal in Where The Blood Mixes.