BWW Review: THE SOLITUDES is a Personal Look Into Women's Lives and Bloodlines That Struggles to Find a Narrative
Aluna Theatre and Nightwood Theatre's production of THE SOLITUDES, directed by Bea Pizano, is an interesting glimpse into the lives of eight very different women's lives, histories, and bloodlines. Despite strong creative elements and performances, the dozens of ideas that are brought up rarely connect; at times this might be intentional, to show the differences between the women, but even in moments where there is opportunity for connection and healing over common trauma, actors remain isolated in their own stories.
The performance follows points of each ensemble member's personal and family history - how they came to be in Canada, how they connect to the land, how they connect to spirituality, and more. Each actor (also credited as co-creators, as the stories they tell come from their own experiences) tells their story beautifully, but the lack of narrative prevents actual connection. When the group comes together at one point to discuss the title and job of 'wife,' there is a real sense of community; while their experiences and ideas differ, they have an easygoing, sometimes comical, back and forth that makes the scene a highlight.
In other places, like a debate on FGM (female genital mutilation) between Rhoma Spencer and Rosalba Martinni, is high-energy but ultimately goes nowhere, with Spencer being from Trinidad and Tobago and who understands the cultural aspect of the process, and Martinni, an Italian-Canadian who denounces the practice. It's an uncomfortable discussion, rightfully so, but the silence from other actors, the quick abandonment of the topic, and the fact that no other subject receives a similar debate-format presentation makes it stand out, although its hard to tell if it standing out is a positive or if it distracts.
Standout performances come from Brefny Caribou, whose approach to Indigenous issues - primarily a lack of connection to her ancestry, and the endless stream of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, is laced with black humour that lands consistently. Lara Arabian and Michelle Polak both discuss their connection to horrific genocides; Arabian on the Armenian, and Polak on the Holocaust. They both speak with such urgency, and paint such vivid imagery with their words, that the similarities between their families' histories is made blindingly apparent - however, there's no attempt made to connect the two actors, aside from presenting fragments of their grandparent's and parent's stories in a shared scene.
THE SOLITUDES features gorgeous creative work - lighting (Rebecca Vandevelde) is its own character, and the open, deep space of the Harbourfront Centre Theatre allows actors to use all three levels throughout their monologues. Ceiling to floor curtains create illusions and a space for subtitles during pieces spoken in non-English language (scenic and projection design by Trevor Schwellnus), and while costumes (Vanessa Magic) are effective, they seem somewhat random - some actors are in garments tied directly to their cultural background, while others are in plain tunics. This might be commentary on the loss of culture after horrific events, but it does cause for a bit of visual disconnect between the actors.
THE SOLITUDES is an ambitious work that brings up several interesting ideas, although it rarely follows up on them past the initial introduction. Despite this, hearing the personal and cultural histories of diverse women, especially since they come from places of truth, is a necessary step forward.
Aluna Theatre and Nightwood Theatre's THE SOLITUDES runs through January 17 at Harbourfront Centre Theatre, 231 Queens Quay W, Toronto, ON.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.alunatheatre.ca/programming/solitudes/
Photo credit: Jeremy Mimnagh