Review - Communion

by Wil Knoll · 0 comments

“We can hear you think.” - Valerie Planche

ATP finishes off their season with the premiere of the new Daniel MacIvor job, Communion. Three of Calgary’s strongest women tackle a dense piece of work, and do it with panache. The show runs 80 minutes with no intermission, and there are only three scenes. Each of the performers is given two scenes to partake in, fully present moment to moment. It’s an actor’s show, light on tech and focusing almost solely on the dialogue between the characters.

Or the lack of dialogue between the characters. In its silent moments the production does just as well as the vocally charged ones. Although MacIvor’s script is at times overbearing, telegraphing it’s punches a full twenty to forty minutes before they connect, it still has a nice arc that comes full circle. The plot focuses on the tattered relationship between a mother, her daughter, and the odd non-friendship that a therapist provides to both of them. The feelings are “left behind” or “not invited”. The questions asked are “Who are you?”, “Who am I to you?”, and “What do I mean to you? Do I mean anything at all?”

I’ve heard these questions posed in my own life. It’s such an honest production that you can’t help but feel déjà vu from real life, the moments where instead of just living a relationship, it needs to be spoken, mapped out for clarity. Then MacIvor introduces the “I was left out of the big secret, something that everyone else just got” feeling that his characters struggle with, and the déjà vu hits again.

The dialogue does ring true. It irked me at times however. MacIvor has a knack for dialogue but I wonder at times if he is trying out bits for a closet stand up comedy job that he doesn’t tell anyone about. His characters just have such eloquent back handed comments that feel outside of the natural verbal punctuation, the “you knows” and “it’s…”, that he writes so cleanly.

That is a small complaint about a much larger great production. ATP’s build is clean. A revolve remains hidden until it’s first rotation that earned a physical reaction from some audience members. The sound design is classy, apt, and such a warm feminine companion to the moments on stage. The lighting design is sublime, not just invoking the feeling of the two environments depicted, but also running long slow queues that unfold with masterful timing. It’s a well teched show, using just the right amount of magic behind the scenes.

And the artistic side is no less well done. Everyone should be proud of their work. There are power struggles in each scene that are so well built by director Linda Moore that you could almost diagram the forces in play. Each performance had moments that stood out and grabbed me. Esther Purves-Smith tackles the challenge of taking multiple “No”s and “Yes”s and turning them into full statements through active listening. Purves-Smith owns infuriation one moment, and provides permission the next. You can hear the subtext in the length of the pause before her responses. Ava Jane Markus’ eyes shine, true commitment in her eyes and serenity her face. She blinds on stage, innocence and faith combining with ministry to a scary end. Valerie Planche is a powerhouse. She performs more in three minutes of silence then some could hope to do in an entire act. Her inner monologue is so clear, in silent and spoken sequences, with no ambiguity.

I’m going to use one of Planche’s own choice complements against her, Markus, and Purves-Smith. You can hear them think. The work is so nuanced that you feel distinct thoughts. A blink, a breath, a hesitation. You may not know how to translate it to english but you know at the sight of it what it means. You just get it. And sometimes that means not knowing what the answers are.

Runs through May 15, 2022
The Martha Cohen Theatre
Alberta Theatre Projects

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