THE SHEEP AND THE WHALE by Ahmed Ghazali, directed by Soheil Parsa (Cahoots/Modern Times/Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson). To March 11. Pwyc-$30. 416-504-7529. See Continuing, page 72. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Set aboard a ship of lost souls, Ahmed Ghazali 's The Sheep And The Whale takes an ambitious look at those who think they've found contentment and those who believe they haven't.
Though the epic, poetic script's elements don't come together fully, the multicultural production is visceral, often thrilling.
In the Strait of Gibraltar, a cargo ship finds drowned Moroccan refugees, bodies that no country wants to accept. Lying on the deck for the length of the play, the bodies are a reminder of the kind of condescending NIMBY attitude that reduces humans to objects, "us" to "them."
Their existence uncovers decay in the strained relationship of Helene and Hassan, a French woman and Moroccan man, as well as corruption amongst the ship's self-serving Russian captain and crew.
Using Bobby Theodore 's lyric translation, director Soheil Parsa creates powerful stage pictures, setting the action on various levels to suggest the ship's size. He's abetted by the fine work of designers Camellia Koo , Trevor Schwellnus , Thomas Ryder Payne and Nina Okens .
Parsa maintains a fine dramatic tension throughout, skilfully blending magic realism, engaging storytelling, ritual and intense emotions. Even so, there are not always clear links within the sprawling, complex work; a broad burlesque about multinational takeovers sits uncomfortably.
Andy Velasquez gives the secretive Hassan an unsettling, haunted quality, while Soo Garay 's mesmerizing Helene begins tightly wound and ends in calm, fated acceptance. Jim Warren 's captain has a touch of Chekhovian tragicomedy, and Julian Richings brings warmth to the sympathetic, frustrated doctor who cares for all those aboard, legal and illegal.
Elie Gemael gives a fine, focused performance as the sole Moroccan survivor, an unwilling and almost silent witness to the action.