Playwright: Michael Kras
Director: Michael Kras
Cast: Matthew Blackshaw, Alisa Blanchard, Robert Brown, Devin France, Jesse Horvath, Danny Johnston, Philip Krusto, Kayla Mazepa, Concetta Roche, Kit Simmons, Hannah Wayne.
Review by: Tom Mackan
So much electrifying movement and arresting choreography courses through this production! Writer/Director Michael Kras finds the energy of his actors and harnesses it most effectively in this 45 minute well-contained drama. By chance it’s the opening show of the Festival, and certainly for the first hour of Hamilton Fringe 2013 was the show to beat. Congratulations to the whole creative team behind it all. By the time you’re reading this, to be sure, a dozen other great shows will be up and running. Still, one hopes that this smart and well-disciplined company will sustain its fascination and hold its own.
An eye-catching silent tableau of about ten actors posed in enchanted stillness greets the audience as it assembles. We’re in a time and place in a not too distant past but quite a measured move from our familiar urbanity. Somebody throws a switch, the power surges, the tableau jerks briefly to life, but only into another stillness, then, as if shot from a gun, a young man races in and he sets the story of “Jamie’s Gone” in gentle motion. This shotgun effect is enhanced with a foot stamping signal, or with hands clapping by the actors, and throughout the production is wonderfully effective in focusing our attention as markers in the progress of the story. The young man (a convincing and commanding performance by the admirable Devin France), using an old phonograph, stirs the company to begin the action gently with a plaintive song, and there’s a coming to gradual life. They all take up the singing and, dream-like, move into the play. It’s an opening that sings of confidence and artistic achievement and our evening’s enjoyment of this journey into story-telling is confirmed. I recommend it to readers as a Fringe must-see.
Jamie, a young boy, is gone. This message is what stirs the story and get’s it going. We’re in Vernon, a small, unsophisticated, simplistic community, one that arises more from our unconscious knowing of its kind of social interaction than from any common experience of it. Writer Kras is young, barely a grown-up, yet he calls up a society in conflict with itself that speaks of serious maturity. A child has disappeared. There slinks in hesitantly the spectre of abuse and suspicions are not long coming and soon are centred on one of them. The imitative and predictable seem unavoidable.
But Kras has an emerging mastery of staging and plotting that is gratifying to observe. He just knows; he just knows what he wants us to hear and see and unapologetically takes away our suspicions of his young-ness and with a delicious kind of trust-me, I-can-do-this, he succeeds. Not perfectly, don’t get me wrong, he’s in learning-mode, but with the right cards to play, the right materials, well, just watch me, he seems to say, just watch me!
Readers, you won’t have trouble following the story, the tale tells itself. What will first engage you are the details of set, settings, props, costumes, how the multitude of signs and images are layered. You are going to see some of the best of our young Hamilton actors: Devin France (already mentioned above), Nick Kozij and Danny Johnston bringing rapidly maturing skills to bear, Robert K. Brown in startling presence, Kit Simmons with fine poise and command. Matthew Blackshaw and Jesse Horvath soundly in character, along with the talented Kayla Mazepa, Concetta Roche, Hannah Wayne, and Alisa Blanchard always in their moments, a living part of the ensemble. As the week progresses, some adjustment to opening night lighting cues will be needed, and the production will come in with the front runners. Do see it. The Citadel Theatre space upstairs. Tell them I sent you.