TWILIGHT CAFE by Tony Hall, directed by Rhoma Spencer (Theatre Archipelago). At the Great Hall (1087 Queen West). To May 27. $17-$25. www.totix.ca. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Trinidadian playwright Tony Hall 's Twilight Café serves up heaping portions of domestic violence, and director Rhoma Spencer 's theatrically vivid production presents the material with honesty and depth.
This two-hander focuses on the volatile, decaying marriage of Stanley ( David Collins ) and Sarah ( Raven Dauda ).
Writing in a spiralling, non-linear style, Hall hooks the audience with an intensely sexual scene upfront.
As the play develops, it goes beyond the physical deep into an exploration of love, insecurity and frailty as well as many aspects of life in Trinidad.
Both Collins and Dauda have astonishing stamina and deliver powerful performances.
To show Stanley at various ages, Collins exercises precise physicality, subtly modifying his voice or gait. Dauda plays five different characters and wholly transforms herself for each.
In a heart-stopping scene in which Stanley threatens Sarah with a knife, Dauda's reaction simultaneously suggests fear, disgust, desperation, betrayal, shame and regret.
Under director Spencer, the production elements work together seamlessly. Michelle Ramsay 's lighting establishes the mood, and Julia Tribe 's straightforward set and costumes enable many magical moments.
In a stand-out scene, a long red scarf becomes a head wrap that transforms Dauda into Stanley's mother, Bernice. With each turn of the cloth, Bernice materializes more fully.
Then, a billowing blue sheet becomes a river in a purification ritual beautifully choreographed by movement coach Erika Batdorf .
Unfortunately, the script turns uneven in the final 20 minutes.
During the drawn-out therapy sessions, Sarah's lines don't always feel organic and some dialogue seems contrived.
Still, Twilight Café deserves high praise for its daring depiction of abuse through a cultural lens, and this stunning production pays due tribute to its boldness.