ANNIE MAE'S MOVEMENT written and directed by Yvette Nolan, with Rose Stella and Jason Yuzicapi. Presented by Native Earth Performing Arts and Studio Lab Theatre Foundation at the Native Canadian Centre (16 Spadina Road). Runs to April 14, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $10, Sunday pwyc. 416-531-4525. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
from the start of annie mae's
Movement, Yvette Nolan's stage biography of native activist Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, the audience knows that the journey ends in murder. But Aquash's is not a straight road -- especially in the curving set by Christine Plunkett, lit by Rebecca Picherack -- and its various turns sketch in some of the passions and problems in her life as the action weaves its way through the audience.
In a series of humorous, compassionate or sharply satiric snapshots, Nolan emphasizes the increasing commitment and danger Aquash faces in the American Indian Movement (AIM) of the 70s, first from the antagonistic American government and later from within, as she's suspected of being an FBI informant.
The opening and closing monologues, which resonate with passion and the inevitability of change, are especially powerful, and Rose Stella's dynamic, warm Annie Mae gives them thrilling life.
Nolan's goal is to convey the difficulties faced by Aquash and other women in the male-dominated AIM. At some point, most of the male figures -- all played with a nice sense of individuality by Jason Yuzicapi -- belittle Aquash, which only further fuels her drive to win native rights. But she pays a private price. "I'm a better warrior than a mother," Annie Mae sighs with a touch of sadness.
The play could use more historic and emotional details in its second half, but writer/director Nolan sensitively carries actors and audience from the start of Aquash's journey to its end, illuminating an aboriginal hero whose life burned with the brightness of a shooting star.