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BWW Review: BEARS Roars to Life at the Citadel Theatre


The play runs at the Citadel's Maclab Theatre until October 31.

BWW Review: BEARS Roars to Life at the Citadel Theatre

Floyd is in serious trouble. Suspected by the RCMP for causing a deadly workplace accident, he flees into the Rocky Mountains, solitary but not alone among the wilderness and its inhabitants.

Written and directed by Edmonton-born Matthew MacKenzie, Bears is an ode to the timeless relationship between Indigenous peoples and nature and an ominous call to action to protect the environment. The atmospheric script blends poetry with sharp humour, blurring the line between reality and fantasy as Floyd ventures deeper into the mountains and gradually evolves into his true self- a bear.

Sheldon Elter is impressive in the leading role, exuding a commanding stage presence and flair for storytelling. He makes it easy to empathize with and root for Floyd despite the character's questionable past deeds. Floyd's recollections of his childhood are among the show's most compelling moments, especially when his mother (Christine Sokaymoh Frederick) steps forth from the shadows to help warmly recall these memories. Sharing the stage is an expressive ensemble of seven dancers (Gianna Vacirca, Shammy Belmore, Karina Cox, Skye Demas, Alida Kendell, Zoë Glassman, and Rebecca Sadowski). Together, they bring the natural world to life around Floyd, embodying rushing river currents to tiger lilies to benevolent river otters.

The production's set and special effects are just as visually striking. Environmental designer T. Erin Gruber's backdrop of lofty, jagged mountains gleam under a suspended haze of clouds, each component shifting colours and patterns throughout Floyd's journey. Musical compositions by Noor Dean Musani amplify the suspense of the chase while Monica Dottor's props and costuming are playful at times and haunting at others. Perhaps the most memorable scene is the one in which Floyd mourns the 2013 Zama City oil spill and its decimation of aquatic life, the ensemble grieving with him from beneath spectral veils of silvery fishing nets.

As with any great adventure, Bears is filled with hairpin twists and turns, showcasing a thought-provoking character arc and shining with moments of unexpected beauty. It runs at the Citadel's Maclab Theatre until October 31. Masks and proof of vaccination are mandatory for all audience members.

Photo Credit: Nanc Price for the Citadel Theatre

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