TALES OF AN URBAN INDIAN written and performed by Darrell Dennis, directed by Herbie Barnes. Presented by Native Earth Performing Arts at Artword Alternative (75 Portland). Runs to November 30, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $17-$22, Sunday pwyc. 416-366-7723. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
At the outset of his moving and funny Tales Of An Urban Indian , Darrell Dennis admits he can't shape-shift, he wasn't adopted out and he's never heard the owl call his name. What he does deliver in the next 90 minutes is one native man's rough journey from anger and frustration to pride, and it's a pretty engrossing, if occasionally circuitous, journey.
Dennis plays Simon Douglas, a struggling actor who recounts his past growing up on a reserve and then his exodus to Vancouver, where he ends up trying to navigate both the cliquish high schools where he's forced to be funny to fit in and the drug-infested dives on Hastings Street where he feels like he's home.
As narrator, Dennis seems too hyper and restless; at times I wondered if his persona was supposed to be on speed. He's better when he slips into characters, from Simon's wise and gruff grandmother to the offensive parents of a white woman he's dating.
The actor's comedy training pays off, as in his version of Jackie Mason as God. And the script is full of sharp details about everything from acting as Ritalin to the difference between being an elder and just being old.
Herbie Barnes directs the show crisply, although a pivotal scene where a character pops up again near the end needs some embellishment. And Christine Plunkett 's slide projections don't do much work.
Still, Dennis is a writer and performer to keep your eye on. Sparked by anger but suffused with humanity and humility, his Tales are worth telling - and watching.