WRITTEN ON WATER by Michel Marc Bouchard, directed by Micheline Chevrier, with David Fox, Doris Chillcott, Jerry Franken, Barbara Gordon, Carolyn Hetherington and Jordan Pettle. Presented by Canadian Stage at the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front East). Runs to February 14, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday 1:30 pm and Saturday 2 pm. $25-$77, some Monday pwyc and rush tickets. 416-368-3110. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
A flood of poetic language and powerful emotions make Written On Water an impressive production, even if the writing occasionally drains into shallow tidal pools. Set in a small Quebec town shortly after a torrential downpour has destroyed buildings and ruined the archives of a seniors' writing circle, Michel Marc Bouchard 's image-strong script looks at how we try to rewrite our lives, both on and off the page.
While Samuel ( David Fox ), the rigid martinet who runs the circle, wants to look to the past, the other members - his sister Martha ( Carolyn Hetherington ), married couple William and Dorothy ( Jerry Franken and Barbara Gordon ) and maxim-loving Claire ( Doris Chillcott ) - direct their gaze at the future and want new lives. The literal outsider here is Danny ( Jordan Pettle ), the only - and hence lonely - child who's remained in a dying village.
Wandering around Judith Bowden 's post-catastrophe set, splashing through puddles in rubber boots, the cast offers Bouchard's touching, thoughtful ideas on aging, death and letting go. How rare to hear these notions on a stage, voiced by actors who bring decades of, well, life, to the playwright's polished words.
If there's a problem in the writing, it's Danny (the fault isn't Pettle's), who remains largely a metaphor in a room of vibrant people who fight and tussle with relationships and moving on.
Director Micheline Chevrier understands the beating heart of this complex piece, and she gets strong performances from the cast. No one does cranky, abandoned old bugger better than Fox, while Hetherington's concern for her brother and her own reawakening sexual interest are powerfully realized. Gordon and Franken make an engaging couple, alternately bickering and making up, and while Chillcott doesn't always catch the underlying emotion of Claire, she captures her comedy. Pettle's guardian angel - complete with wings - becomes both repository of the past and hope for the future.