SummerWorks review: White Man’s Indian

WHITE MANS INDIAN by Darla Contois (WMI Collective/SummerWorks). At The Theatre Centre BMO Incubator. Aug 5 at 6:30 pm, Aug.


WHITE MANS INDIAN by Darla Contois (WMI Collective/SummerWorks). At The Theatre Centre BMO Incubator. Aug 5 at 6:30 pm, Aug 6 at noon, Aug 7 at 7:30 pm, Aug 10 at 5 pm, Aug 11 at 9:45 pm, Aug 11 at 9:45 pm, Aug 12 at 7 pm. See listing. Rating: NNNN

Darla Contoiss powerful new solo drama about a Cree teenagers struggle to fit in at a new school delves deep into the web of social, historical and systemic challenges that many Indigenous youth face in their day-to-day lives that often get overlooked by others.

In the story, Eva starts her final year of high school at a new school after the death of her mother forces her to relocate from a reservation to live with her estranged alcoholic father in a big city. In funny-yet-revealing classroom and hallway scenes Eva struggles to make friends with clueless white classmates oblivious to her problems, and deals with teachers who assign history projects that subtly other her. At home in her precarious and at times frightening family situation, much darker sources for her feelings of depression, anxiety and self-doubt are revealed, which leads to an important scene where she vents pent-up frustrations and confusion about not having a clear sense of cultural identity or belonging.

With minimal set, director and dramaturge Ed Roy creates some deep and at times disturbing resonances with clothing Evas fathers plaid shirt and her mothers old wedding dress conjure these characters in unexpectedly potent ways. Contoiss convincing performance is the highlight, however, culminating in some haunting and heartrending moments of realization and defeat, but also strength and resilience, that will make many reach for a tissue.

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