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by Amanda McAlpine
“I like taking Native stereotypes and twisting them inside and out,” writer Drew Hayden Taylor commented after the show.
This is precisely what Taylor did in his play, 400 Kilometres. Brought to life last week by Michelle Latimer (Janice) and Jonathan Fisher (Tonto), the production was another resounding success by director Mario Crudo.
Janice Wirth (Michelle Latimer) informs her mother Theresa Wirth (Jo-Ann Waytowich)
that she is pregnant. Photo by Barry Wojciechowsk
The play is about a pregnant Native woman who was adopted at a young age by a Canadian-English couple. As she grows up, she discovers her Native roots and falls in love with Tonto, a Native man.
“400 Kilometres is a laugh and [a] thought-provoking comedy that explores the distance between heart and home. With his usual flair for mixing comedy and drama, Taylor tells the story of Janice Wirth, a thirty-something entertainment lawyer who recently discovered her Ojibway roots. She now finds herself pregnant and must reconcile her past with the present,” a press release tells.
Latimer, who played Janice, pulls off a wide range of expression and had the audience convinced within her first lines on stage. She captured deep emotions that are hard to portray on stage, playing the part well.
Fisher, playing Tonto, was direct and straight forward, which was conducive to his character’s unique sense of humour. The audience had a laugh listening to his witty lines and watching his forward personality.
Jo-Ann Waytowich and Keith Savage, who played Janice’s adoptive parents, were typical British, bubbly folk. It was fun to watch these two run around on stage, messing about in both their own and their daughter’s affairs. The parents kept the mood light, with the audience waiting for comic relief passages given by their teamwork.
The chemistry between the characters on stage was the strongest I’ve seen in Magnus’ productions this year. The actors work well together, almost reading each other’s minds.
Gloria Eshkibok played Anne, Janice’s birth mother. Eshkibok was seen in segments throughout the play, representing Janice’s dreams about her real mother talking about Janice’s birth.
Unfortunately, Eshkibok was the one strand in this production that pulled it down a bit. It was clear that she was not confident with her lines, and she stumbled on words and ideas that didn’t come quickly to the front of her mind. The character of Anne was the magic of the play, so it was unfortunate that this actress did not fall in with the flow of the other actors on stage.
This show was another hit for Magnus Theatre. With only two shows left in their season, take advantage of their student prices while you can!
This production of 400 Kilometres runs through March 17, 2012.
This review first appeared in the argus on March 12, 2012.