Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Review Footprints On The Moon

Footprints On The Moon
by Maureen Hunter

Our Town

This deceptively gentle, warm hearted play has a savage undertow about small town life on the Canadian Prairies and also the treatment of women in life - and in fiction. Indeed, we would go as far as to say that Maureen Hunter shows an ear for dialogue and subtle plotting which reminds us of Tennessee Williams.

Joannie (Anne Adams) is an attractive, girlish 30 something single mom in an on-off relationship with denim clad vodka-swigging Dunc Carr (Derek Hagen) in an isolated township.

While others, including her sulky teenage daughter Carol-Ann (Sally Cheng) and ex husband Boone (Nicholas Goh) come and go, she remains a permanent fixture.  Like the landscape, she's not "going downhill, but plateaued".

While this 1988 Canadian drama is mostly eminently theatrical, there's an alluring pensive cinematic quality to the script laced with wistful humour. Designer Charlotte Henery cleverly transforms the set of the other play running this month at the Finborough into a train station and then the kitchen of Joannie's homestead.

We also get to know the layout of Rose Coulee through the dialogue  - neighbour Beryl's purple house, the Drake Hotel, the rough and tumble Plains Inn with scrawled graffiti on the wall of the men's toilet, Joannie's Dad living nearby, the store where Joannie works, Dunc and his medically ailing mother and even the long-term dent on the fender of Dunc's truck.

Director Anastasia Osei-Kuffour deftly paces the action in an intricate, slippery piece with an ebbing and flowing soundscape by Lucinda Mason Brown and delicate lighting by Peter Harrison.

Joannie slides almost imperceptibly from the reality of her life to odd time shifts, wish fulfilment and dream.This is emphasized by Joannie's rose coloured spectacles in a prizewinning essay voice over on her home town which feels like a throwback to more successful schooldays in an original dramatic structure which the audience finds itself absorbing as if by osmosis.

As the play progresses we get larger and larger glimpses of what her life may really be like, Carol-Ann's eagerness to get away to her father in Toronto, the trap for women from which Joannie's mother seems to have escaped and Dunc Carr's mother cannot - it is all filtered through othe sensibility of the characters.

With fine performances throughout, the play revolves around Adams's wounded yet feisty Joannie. The first act feels the strongest while the second struggles a little and maybe betrays that it's natural milieu is film.

Yet with its twists and turns, this is a distinctive and touching green light drama which plays on the psychology of the audience as much as revealing what lies beneath the characters and the rhythms of late twentieth century prairie life.  

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