THE MONUMENT by Colleen Wagner, directed by Nigel Shawn Williams (Obsidian). At Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley). Runs to March 25. $25-$35, Monday limited pwyc-$15. 416-368-3110. See Continuing, page 81. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Colleen Wagner's the monument came out in 1995 and promptly won the Governor General's Award for drama. A spare and relatively simple play about the atrocities of war, it seemed then a timely response to the carnage in Bosnia.
It's a decade later, and of course the play still resonates. That disturbing truth wasn't lost on Obsidian Theatre , the city's leading black theatre company, which is reviving it with some slight script changes to no doubt make us reflect on the atrocities in Darfur and perhaps Iraq.
In the chilling opening monologue, a soldier named Stetko ( Garnet Harding ), his head in a noose, describes his raping and killing of 23 females.
As Bonnie Beecher 's lighting design incrementally shows us more, we gradually learn that Stetko was encouraged by his fellow soldiers to commit these acts.
When a shrouded woman named Mejra ( Yanna McIntosh ) appears and offers Stetko the opportunity for freedom but only if he does what she says the plot takes a somewhat predictable twist as the abuser becomes the victim and the victim the abuser.
The central mystery about the identity of the characters is pretty easy to guess, especially when the angry Mejra forces Stetko to lead her to the forest where he killed and buried the women. But Wagner's predictable script contains some powerful lines about truth and facts, vengeance and sorrow.
Still, this is material that's been dealt with onstage before and since with far more nuance. Ariel Dorfman's Death And The Maiden and Michael Redhill's Goodness are just two examples, the latter a particularly complex examination of good and evil.
Nigel Shawn Williams directs with an uneven hand, letting the pace slacken at times and allowing John Gzowski 's sound design to distract from the simple power of the play.
But he does get good performances from his two leads. McIntosh in particular makes her character into a timeless and moving portrait of grief.