The Valley

THE VALLEY by Joan MacLeod, directed by.

THE VALLEY by Joan MacLeod, directed by Richard Rose, with Susan Coyne, Ian Lake, Colin Mercer and Michelle Monteith. Presented by the Tarragon (30 Bridgman). Previews through Tuesday (November 12), opens Wednesday (November 13) and runs to December 15, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm (except November 9). $21-$53, $13 rush Friday and Sunday from November 15. 416-531-1827.

We assume we know about the lives of the police through movies, TV and the media.

In The Valley, playwright Joan MacLeod (Another Home Invasion, The Shape Of A Girl) takes audiences out of the police station to look at the private life of Constable Dan Mulano, who arrests a teenager named Connor on the Vancouver SkyTrain.

Connor has psychological issues his mother stands up to Mulano and his judgmental attitude toward the young man. What she doesn’t know is that Mulano’s wife, Janie, is a new mother suffering with her own problems.

“When I first read the script, I connected with Dan’s desire to be the fixer,” says Ian Lake, who plays the policeman in the Tarragon production. “What he learns over the course of the play is that sometimes helping isn’t the thing to do, because you might stop the other person from solving their own problem. The impulse to make things right might come from a good place, but it doesn’t always help you see someone for who they are.

“Dan learns this not only as a policeman, but also as a husband and father.”

Connor had already dropped out of university at the time of the arrest, spending most of his time isolated in his bedroom writing a futuristic novel whose hero faces pressures somewhat like those Connor feels pressing down on him.

“All that Dan can initially see is that Connor is a privileged kid from North Vancouver, while Dan himself grew up in a poor neighbourhood,” says Lake. “His beat is Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where day after day he has hard work dealing with chronic offenders. He believes that in comparison, Connor’s problems are trivial.”

Mulano’s view of the world is pretty much black-and-white, says the actor his character discovers that life is actually full of greys.

“That’s true not just in his work, but also in his home life, where Janie is struggling with their six-month-old son, Zeke. Zeke represents hope for Dan, but with that comes constant worry about how he might grow up.”

To research his role, Lake spent some time this past summer with the Stratford police, particularly Sergeant Mark Taylor and Constable David Frei, while finishing off his sixth season at the Stratford Festival.

“I got a different appreciation of the police from doing that, driving around in a squad car doing ordinary things, not chasing the bad guys like on television. They were real people I’d never had a chance to meet.”

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He has a great appreciation for Siminovitch Prize winner MacLeod’s writing, finding in it “a complexity that sneaks up on you.

“This is a seemingly simple story of a mother and son as well as a husband and wife trying to connect with each other. The Valley doesn’t feel like a piece of theatre, but like life. You know where the issues exist in your world, even if you’re not touched by them immediately.”

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The differences between working at Stratford and Shaw:

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