Friday, September 17, 2004

Fruit and Fields

I really don't know why I don't eat more fruit. It really does taste yummy. But unless I really consciously think about it (like the past month, where I've been bound and determined to have some fruit with my lunch every weekday), when I go for a snack, it's something decidedly non-fruit. Flatbreads, or crackers, or even random slices of cheese enter my mind before a small plum, or a slice of watermelon. I think I shall have to be a little more proactive in my eating habits.

This week, I'm reviewing Of the Fields, Lately, the current presentation of Theatre Calgary. Super wonderful thanks to Mom and Dad for the birthday present! It makes me so happy!

Of the Fields, Lately is the last chronologically of a series of five plays about a Newfoundland family that lives in Toronto. This play is set in the late 1960s, and details the estranged son Ben's return home for his aunt's funeral. The play is done in two acts over the course of two days, with some asides by Ben reflecting on the events from an unknown time in the future. There are four main characters that occupy the stage, and their interaction, from belligerant to reconciling, forms the meat of the play.

Although, or perhaps because, I have a good relationship with my family, the character of Ben really struck a chord with me. Here was a young man who had been out on his own for two years, coming home for a funeral and forced to confront his relationship with both his father and his mother under trying circumstances. With more information in his possession, he is able to set aside his animosity towards his father to offer to return home. And yet, he has the strength of character to retract the offer when it becomes clear that his return, despite how it is longed for by both his parents, would negatively affect their peace of mind. Chills ran through me when Ben, after his father asked him why he was coming home, said, "I want to." Perhaps that was because, prior to the play, Mom and I had just been discussing how much I didn't want to come back home, and how much she didn't want me to either.

Death is a prevalent theme in the play, and it is juxtaposed with images of life and beauty, giving the play a haunting power. Uncle Wiff's description of Dot prior to their marriage is brigh, and the subtle use of projected images on the black backdrop really added a level to the story. And while we are taken in by his description of her vivaciousness, we are continually reminded that she is dead, and that the love with which Wiff speaks of her had cooled. Death and destruction hangs over the entire play, visually represented by the black backdrop, which was only superficially marred by various projected images.

R.H. Thomson directed Theatre Calgary's production (and if I'd known he was going to be sitting behind us the entire time, I would have brought my Cyrano de Bergerac program for him to sign), and I believe he did a fine job. The actors were believable (though Cheryl did point out that Mary looked a heck of a lot older than 50), and they interacted with conviction. There were some points when the Newfoundland accents were difficult to understand, but for the most part, I was able to follow the dialog.

I enjoyed this production quite a bit, and if you're one who also likes a bit of well-prepared meat to your entertainment (and are in the Calgary area), you might want to consider buying tickets and going to see this one. It will be playing until October 3.



A very good review of a very good play!


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