CONSECRATED GROUND by George Boyd, directed by David R. Collins, with Kevin Hanchard, Nigel Shawn Williams, Shakura S'Aida, Troy Adams, Lili Francks, Abena Malika and Norman C. Owen. Presented by Obsidian and Factory at Factory (125 Bathurst). Runs to May 30, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $25-$33.50, Sunday pwyc. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
George Boyd's Consecrated Ground sheds light on the destruction of Africville, a more than century-old black community in Halifax, in order to build a park and a bridge. It's a powerful dramatic situation, and Boyd gives his Africville a series of individual faces. A husband and wife ( Kevin Hanchard and Shakura S'Aida ) and their infant son are the narrative heart of the story. Surrounding them are a matriarch ( Lili Franks ), the community's minister ( Nigel Shawn Williams ) and various others; a young white municipal worker ( Norman C. Owen ) represents the forces opposing them.
There's a strong sense of tragic inevitability in the action, of people determined to retain their humanity - and their homes - in the face of impossible odds. But this production doesn't always capture that grandeur, in part because David Collins 's direction is tentative and fails to give weight to the key confrontations. He and the cast show us the folksy humour and early warmth of the piece, but the story's climaxes lack the proper emotional significance.
There's a nice sense of affection and sensuality between S'Aida and Hanchard, but their drifting apart resonates less strongly than it should.
Owen's callow city guy thinks he's doing the right thing for everyone, never realizing he's destroying people's homes; his ideals sour nicely over the course of the show. Francks's sassy, wily old-timer, a real scene-stealer, is Africville's backbone in many ways.
Best of all is Williams, the religious leader who finally realizes the dangers of supping with the devil and blames no one more than himself.