Tideline by Wadji Mouawad (Factory Theatre). Runs to December 11. See Continuing for details. Rating: NNN
Wadji Mouawad's Tideline is that rare thing: a contemporary epic play.
Acclaimed in its original French, it's receiving its English language premiere at the Factory , and it's frequently brilliant, shot through with dark wit, poetry and references to Greek tragedy. But something's lost in the translation, or perhaps due to the direction.
After receiving news of his father's death, Montrealer Wilfrid ( Michael Rubenfeld ) travels to his dad's unnamed birthplace to bury him. Once there, he finds a devastated country buckling with corpses. Searching for an empty plot of land, he meets others who have lost their parents but haven't been able to grieve. Wilfrid's dead father ( Sugith Varughese ) provides this lost generation with a symbolic father to mourn.
Mouawad presents the play in three acts spanning 210 minutes (including two intermissions), and it's a feat to get through, for the audience and the players. The lengthy first act is rich with detail. Wilfrid, who learns about his father's death at the very moment that he's having an orgasm, has a vivid fantasy life.
He occasionally imagines himself captured on film by a movie director or helped by an Arthurian knight (both characters are played, whimsically, by Andrew Moodie ).
As directed by Bill Lane , the fantasy sequences are imaginative and psychologically complex, especially when we see repeated guilt-ridden echoes of sexual climax, always accompanied by someone's death.
Other images - of characters dancing or playing music - suggest stories Wilfrid has heard about his parents' lives.
But after establishing so much detail about Wilfrid and his parents, the later shift to a more symbolic, universal story isn't dramatically satisfying. Are we to see the father's death as trivial in the face of such mass destruction?
Perhaps so. The play's final image - despite Varughese's weakness as an actor - has a primitive tug. But perhaps Mouawad, who borrows liberally from one ancient Greek, should have listened to another and stuck to a unified time and place.