GHOST TRAIN by Betty Quan, based on the book by Paul Yee, directed by Pierre Tetrault, with Karen Ancheta, Laurance Tan, Denis Akiyama and Richard Lee. Presented by Young Peoples Theatre (165 Front East). Runs to May 13, various times. $18-$28. 416-862-2222. Rating: NNN
ghost train takes us on a magi-
cal ride, even if the scenery is sometimes more compelling than the final destination.
Betty Quan's play, based on the Paul Yee book, tells the story of Choon-Yi (Karen Ancheta), a one-armed Chinese girl with an artistic gift who comes to Canada to find her father (Laurance Tan), a worker on the Canadian railroad.
Spanning years and continents, the story is complicated -- part ghost story, part history lesson, part portrait of the artist as a young girl -- but Quan, who's provided a clear text, and director Pierre Tetrault, keep the play moving.
This is largely due to the magnificent images projected onto screens. These images, by Cylla Von Tiedemann and Harvey Chan (the book's illustrator), add texture and depth. Shadowy movements choreographed by Peter Chin and Yvonne Ng also play out on the screens. I've never seen these kinds of materials used with such impact before, and they're well integrated in Glen Charles Landry's set.
Less effective are the songs, by Quan and Donald Quan. They're vaguely atmospheric and richly scored, but in the end as forgettable as that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon song.
Ancheta and Tan deliver committed, honest performances in a cast of varying talent, but Denis Akiyama as the narrator provides the show's confident anchor, imparting facts and occasionally adding comic relief.
Some threads are lost -- a statement that for a girl it's "better to be dead than married" never pays off, and a character's death isn't clearly explained -- but overall Ghost Train is a marvellously woven piece. It forces us to look at pictures and history and see the human stories behind them.theatre reviews