BWW Review: AFTER THE BLACKOUT at Soulpepper
AFTER THE BLACKOUT began as a testimonial play but developed into a dramatic, rich collection of stories told by a great ensemble.
The new play from RARE Theatre Company and Soulpepper was written and directed by Judith Thompson. It follows a group of people as they share their stories, ranging from familial reconnections to home invasions. The two-and-a-half-hour play suffers from some drawn-out scenes that seem like they could have been clearer if worked down to a shorter time, but the balanced and talented cast help keep the show moving along.
As the energetic adopted brother Dash (Yousef Kadoura) who struggles with addiction, Kadoura was hard not to watch. His performance in the scene with his sister Zola (Tamyka Bullen) was especially heart wrenching as the two struggled to reconcile and move forward. Bullen was consistently charming, and her physicality and emotion were striking in each of her scenes, while Kadoura commanded attention whenever he was onstage.
Khari (Prince Amponsah) gave his standout performance near the end of the show, but it was worth the wait. He nailed his comedic moments alongside his wife Jamie (Melanie Lepp), and the monologue during his own flashback moment was beautifully haunting. As Jamie, Lepp managed to maintain a great sense of humour throughout the show, delivering some of the best one-liners in the play - sometimes at her own expense, and to great success.
Both Roxy (Mary Beth Rubens) and Beatrix (Catherine Joell MacKinnon) held their own as mothers who struggle with their children and their fears. Rubens approached her character seemingly with ease, playing the aged starlet with elegance, while MacKinnon incorporated great emotion into her signing and delivery.
While the cast was the clear highlight of the show, the set design (Sue LePage) was also well done. The minimalist approach and use of sound (Andy Trithardt) in place of physical props kept the attention on the ensemble, which helped simplify the busy storyline.
Unfortunately, technical issues with the projected ASL translations caused some confusion, as any audience members not familiar with signing couldn't follow the dialogue. Kudos to both Bullen and MacKinnon, whose shared scene was not translated until the last few minutes, but who both managed to convey the tone of what was being said with their choices in movement and facial expression.
Aside from a few mistakes and some long scenes, AFTER THE BLACKOUT stands as a unique piece of theatre. The show was written with this specific cast in mind, so to see these actors perform in roles that were made for them is a treat.
AFTER THE BLACKOUT runs through May 26 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane, Toronto, ON.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit soulpepper.ca/performances/after-the-blackout/5692
(main photo: Yousef Kadoura and Mary Beth Rubens, photo: Daniel Malavasi)