Jordan Hall’s play Kayak is an exploration of environmental activism and social responsibility and the ways in which the ideals of saving the world and actually living in it often clash with one another dramatically. This play is being produced as part of the 2010 Summerworks Festival and plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace.
Kayak is told from the perspective of Annie Iverson, a doting mother of middle class suburban Canadian sensibilities. She spends the entire play sitting in a kayak, lost in the wilderness, telling the audience the story about how she lost her son, Peter, to environmental activism personified in the personage of Julie, a girl that he loves, admires and respects above all other things. As the exposure, the heat, the hunger and the panic slowly take hold of Annie, she plunges deeper into her memories, into hallucinations and becomes increasingly distraught and anguished weaving an incredibly captivating tale which simultaneously touches the heart and raises pertinent questions about how far we are willing to go, as individuals, in our quest to make the world a better place.
Rosemary Dunsmore gives a beautifully passionate performance as Mrs. Iverson, a maternal figure whose son is her entire world and out of love for him she allows herself a certain degree of selfishness and apathy, she can justify lying to protect him and letting the world drown in the figurative flood so that he can live in success and contentment. Dunsmore’s portrait of this mother is at once the characterization of one unique, endearing and flawed human being and she also manages to encapsulated the idea intrinsic to the story of Noah’s Arc, which is alluded to so often in this play, that the instinct for most human beings seems to be to take care of one’s family first even if those actions are to the detriment of society as a whole.
Yet, Hall continues to ask us, should we follow this instinct since it is propelling the planet toward destruction and allowing poverty, war, starvation, corruption, genocide and environmental disasters to plague most of the world’s population, while the fortunate poised in a position to take a stand live each day proving that ignorance is bliss? Conversely, Hall also asks if one can ever be too socially conscious? Julie jumps on any bandwagon to champion her ideals for a better world, but in her quest to purify herself, she shines a spotlight of criticism, condemnation and disdain onto nearly everyone else that she encounters because she considers their lifestyles as making them inherently guilty for the plight of the world. Dienye Waboso gives a fantastic performance as Julie, infusing her with passion and idealism, a zest for adventure and a youthful belief in the inevitable triumph of good over evil, but also gives her a maddening stubbornness, and a indignant self-righteousness that inhibits her from truly connecting to the people that she is supposedly saving and that she supposedly cares about.
Peter, played by Daniel Briere, is continually pulled toward his admiration and love for Julie, and the practical realities of the world in his mother’s tenderness. Peter is subservient to both the women in his life. For the first twenty years of his life he allowed his parents to influence his path, and once he meets Julie, he makes the sharp left turn seeking her approval and following in her footsteps. Peter is being manipulated by both sides and seems unable to find a satisfying middle ground out of which to forge his own perspectives and his own life.
Tommy Taylor directs the piece with lovely simplicity. Mrs. Iverson remains in the kayak throughout the play, but the actions of Julie and Peter are in constant, fluid, motion and the kayak is used to represent other vehicles during the scenes where all three characters’ journeys collide.
This play takes us to the brink of environmental activism and merges it with Mrs. Iverson’s delusions and desperation being lost in the wilderness. The ending is unexpected and a bit disconcerting, but at the same time, Jordan Hall does a good job of alluding to how precarious the world is and reminding us that, regardless of whether we are consciously or unconsciously contributing to the dwindling of the world’s resources and the disparity of global resources that capitalism advocates, or whether we fight for justice and equality, at the end of the day, aren’t we all in the same boat, just one brick away from the impending flood?
Kayak plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace at the following times:
August 11th 8:00 PM
August 12th 10:00 PM
August 14th 8:00 PM
August 15th 12:00 PM