Simon Moccasin and Paula-Jean Prudatdeliver troubling lessons in A Very Polite Genocide.
A VERY POLITE GENOCIDE OR THE GIRL WHO FELL TO EARTH by Melanie J. Murray (Native Earth). At Buddies (12 Alexander). To December 21. See Continuing. Rating: NNN
The legacy of residential schools poisons three generations of an Aboriginal family in Melanie J. Murray's A Very Polite Genocide Or The Girl Who Fell To Earth.
It takes decades for the characters to overcome denial, internalized guilt and hatred instilled by government and religious institutions. Still, we're never far from the schools themselves; the floor of Laird Macdonald's set is filled with photos of children in the educational system, children removed from their families as well as their culture.
Director Yvette Nolan's production captures the characters' hurt, distress and anger as the narrative weaves back and forth in time to reveal parallels between the generations. At times, though, it's not clear where and when we are; the script should locate us better in the characters' timelines, and Murray complicates things by trying to tell too many stories.
The strength of the show lies in its acting, though some of the performers are less able than others to communicate the force of the play's emotions. Josie, the university student who discovers her Métis heritage and a new family, goes through the biggest journey, and Falen Johnson captures her anxious search with determination and tenderness.
Paula-Jean Prudat's Mary, beaten down by the system, exudes quiet passion, and Catherine McNally brings heart to the role of a white doctor. Waawaate Fobister gives Alley, a street hustler, a touch of gentleness as well as comedy.
It's Gordon White's Robbie, the uncle Josie never got to meet, who delivers some of the play's best writing. White brings intensity and emotional range to the troubled figure, who seeks tenderness yet is fearful when it's offered.