The Great Canadian kicks off it’s 2012/13 season with The Secret Mask, a play about a reconciliation between an estranged father and son after the father has a stroke and is left with aphasia.
Should you see it?
A wonderfully touching and often heartbreaking story that is also able to frequently bring the entire audience into an uproar of laughter.
The GCTC’s production of The Secret Mask is simply a beautiful play in just about every way and is a great beginning to their 2012/13 season. Written by playwright Rick Chafe, The Secret Mask is the story of a father and his adult son getting to know each other under very unconventional circumstances. After the father half of the duo, Ernie, has a stroke, his estranged son George is called out to help him get settled and adjusted to his new reality. Complicating matters, George has a giant chip on his shoulder at being abandoned by Ernie three decades ago and Ernie’s stroke has left him with aphasia and no real memory of his past.
Opening to a full house that include the playwright, Rick Chafe, and the GCTC’s new Artistic Director, Eric Coates, The Secret Mask boasts an all-star cast of Paul Rainville, Michael Mancini, and Kate Hurman. Each of them are true talents and completely bring you into the world of their characters – who all have a lot more going on than you’d think at first.
In addition to Mae the speech therapist who tears up to see a patient move on from her care, Kate Hurman also plays three distinct supporting characters — there’s one moment where she transitions between two of them pretty much mid-line during a scene change that’s both credit to her and director Ann Hodges for how well it plays.
While working through the question of how much he owes a father who abandoned him but now clearly needs him — as well as how badly he wants to understand and know this man, and himself — Mancini’s George is also struggling with his own marital problems and trying to salvage his failing relationship with his own son.
And Rainville not only creates in Ernie a charming and endearing man that you just can’t help but root for (if you’ve ever had an ailing parent or grandparent, you’ll know), he also masterfully handles a huge language barrier (conveying the proper meaning while using the wrong word) which is responsible for most of the laughs.
Following the great script and wonderful cast are the impressive production design and direction of Ann Hodges. The beautiful and minimalist set is full of little secrets and manages to set up a good half-dozen different locations. Switching between locations and scenes is handled quickly and capably, with the slight changes being made by the actors themselves, often at the same time they’re still delivering the lines that bridge one scene to the next. This is complimented by some great lighting design complete with wonderful rain effect, all of which together round out a wonderful theatrical experience that sets the stage for what will hopefully be a great season for the GCTC and Ottawa theatre in general.
For more information on the Great Canadian Theatre’s presentation of The Secret Mask including video interviews, photos and scene samples, see our preview article.
What did you think? Have you ever had to deal with a relative in Ernie’s situation? What was your biggest laugh in the play? Tell me in the comments below.
Photos for this article taken for Production Ottawa by Production Ottawa photographer, David Pasho.