SCORCHED by Wajdi Mouawad, directed by Richard Rose (National Arts Centre/Tarragon, 30 Bridgman). To March 31. Pwyc-$38. 416-531-1827. See Continuing, page 83. Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNNN
A dead mother leaves her twin children letters to deliver to the father they thought dead and the brother they didn't know existed.
With that simple but intriguing beginning, Wajdi Mouawad's Scorched plunges the audience into an epic, multi-generational, time-twisting piece of storytelling, one of the most moving pieces of theatre I've seen in years.
As we follow sibs Simon (Sergio De Zio) and Janine (Sophie Goulet) on their unwelcome journey - he acts out his anger, she suppresses it - we also watch the history of their mother, Nawal, from her teen years. It's one of Mouawad's fine devices that the blue-scarfed Nawal is played at different ages by three actors (Janick Hébert, Kelli Fox and Nicola Lipman), each blending believably into the other.
The other performers, just as memorable, include Valerie Buhagiar as Nawal's protege and companion, David Fox as various narrators and instigators of the action, Alex Poch-Goldin as a revolutionary who fancies himself a rock star and Alon Nashman as Nawal's malaprop-speaking notary, a comic optimist who brings the proper leaven of humour to this often intense story.
Director Richard Rose's choices are unerringly right throughout this near-three-hour work, played out on Graeme S. Thomson's set of sand and baked-stone walls that as easily suggests both the unnamed Middle Eastern country where much of the action takes place and a Montreal suburb. Teresa Przybylski's costumes and Todd Charlton's sound design makes equally strong contributions to a piece in which the past comes smack up against the present.
Poetic, shocking and braided with one narrative after another, Scorched talks dramatically and boldly about revenge, family, mathematics and compassion, at times leaving viewers breathless at its unexpected mixing of topics and tones.
Scorched is an extraordinary play, superbly realized.