RETURN (THE SARAJEVO PROJECT) created by the ensemble, directed by Daryl Cloran (Theatrefront). At Tarragon (30 Bridgman). To January 29. $25-$30, Sunday pwyc. 416-531-1827. See Continuing. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
"You can never go home again," goes the old saying, but it's just as true that you can't transplant home to another country.
Five years after fleeing the Bosnian war and settling in Canada, Tarik returns with his new Canadian wife, Sarah, to bring his siblings back with him. The offer isn't well received, and the playing out of why gives Return (The Sarajevo Project) a proper air of mystery and tension.
The stimulating collective piece, a collaboration between the Theatrefront ensemble (including the actors, director Daryl Cloran and dramaturge Sue Balint ) and two Bosnian actors, is presented in English and Bosnian, with action and translation filling in the gaps for those who speak only one of the show's languages.
All the actors are solid in their parts. Christopher Morris 's self-centred Tarik believes he knows what's right for his family. Driven by guilt and loneliness, he's the play's most complex character, a man whose ticket to freedom cost him dearly. As his naive wife, Holly Lewis is the source of much of the comedy, a Canadian thrown into a war-torn culture she thinks she can immediately connect with.
Dylan Trowbridge has intentionally limited scope as Tarik's smouldering brother Emir, but he makes the character's emotions crystal clear, as does Tanja Smoje as their mothering, quietly sad sister Lejla. As Jasna, Tarik's former girlfriend, Alena Dzebo neatly balances the anger and compassion of a woman who finds that her lover has wed another.
In fact, a scene involving the three women is the richest of the production; two cultures and three individuals blend in an episode that's open, warm and real.
Other episodes could use some tightening, and some aren't needed at all. A scene in which Emir expresses himself through voice-over doesn't require text; Trowbridge and Dzebo communicate everything through movement and energy.
But there's no questioning the excitement of this kind of project, a marrying of cultures and theatrical styles. That's Theatrefront's mandate. Planning co-productions with groups from South Africa, Nunavut and Iceland, they'll show us what fires up theatre companies who have different social concerns and stage traditions.