THE HOURS THAT REMAIN by Keith Barker, directed by David Storch (New Harlem/Saskatoon Native Theatre). At the Aki Studio Theatre, Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas East). To November 3, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Tuesday 12:30 pm and Sunday 2 pm. $11-$23. 1-800-204-0855. See listing. Rating: NNNN
The loss of a loved one isn't a single sharp pain that's over once it's felt. Often the hurt, difficult to let go, becomes long-term separation trauma.
In The Hours That Remain, playwright Keith Barker, inspired by the disappearance of numerous women, many of them aboriginal, on British Columbia's Highway Of Tears, explores how hard it is to move on when a soulmate disappears. In a short, tense and generally well-orchestrated hour, we're witness to several loves that overlap in surprising fashion.
Denise (Tara Beagan) and her husband, Dan (Eli Ham), are both close to Denise's sister, Michelle (Keira Loughran), who disappears one night on a deserted stretch of highway. Denise begins seeing and having conversations with Michelle; Dan says that can't have happened, since she's been gone for years. These visits turn into visions of other women, all of whom resemble Michelle, who have also gone missing.
Barker plays with time in fascinating ways, leaving us sometimes unsure - just as Denise is - when we are in the story. Dan's always supportive of her, but at times he becomes exasperated when she becomes fixated on solving the mystery of Michelle's vanishing.
David Storch's tight direction moves the scenes along at a fast clip, the design by Andy Moro (set and projection) and lighting (Michelle Ramsay) allowing the action to melt magically from one place and time to another. Samuel Sholdice's sound design helps to set atmosphere with the ominous sound of roaring trucks.
The cast clearly conveys the affection between the characters, with Ham's gentle Dan, sexually and emotionally needy and concerned for his anxious wife, and Beagan a passionately worried sister and partner. Offering individual portraits of the play's other women, Loughran links them to her poignant Michelle.
It's great, too, to see Beagan and Loughran onstage again. They've each spent the past several years behind the scenes doing other theatre jobs, and this production is a reminder that they're generous actors who bring sensitivity to their creations.
The narrative has its shares of twists before the end, bringing new perspectives to the story we think we're watching. The climax, though, could be handled at a slower pace. It happens so quickly and the emotional connections among the three become so knotted that additional clarity would be helpful in the play's last 10 minutes.