Written by Ottawa native and former resident playwright at the GCTC, Richard Sanger, Whispering Pines explores a series of themes that range from love and loss to governmental control and betrayal.
Not convinced yet? In our preview video, Paul Rainville and Kris Joseph talk more about working on Whispering Pines.
For lovers of the written word, here’s the review in print form:
The Great Canadian Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Whispering Pines. Written by Ottawa native and former resident playwright Richard Sanger, Whispering Pines explores a series of themes that range from love and loss to governmental control and betrayal. Unfortunately, the play is so convoluted that I’m still trying to figure out what exactly went on. There’s the plot: a socialist couple behind the Berlin wall in 1987 meet an academic from Canada who turns their lives upside down. Then the three old friends are reunited 20 years later on the shore of Lake Superior, where the German couple relocated after the wall fell. And there’s the execution; which was a series of flashbacks, flashforwards, and imagined realities that leave the audience struggling to keep up with what may or may not be happening.
The big problem was that there was no clarity whatsoever on the front end. Once scenes start repeating in different ways with no indications as to which were real, which were misremembered, or what have you, there’s no frame of reference at all to ground you. And all right. The intent might have been for this to be more abstract – the GCTC artistic Director alludes to it as a textured painting in the program – and there were a lot of pretty words as you would expect from somebody like Sanger who is a master of the English language and who’s received multiple nominations for the Governor General’s Literary Award. But… the truth is that the play just doesn’t hold a lot of content. The entire first act is a more or less straightforward back and forth about the pros and cons of socialism and the second act veers into a series of time jumps and alternate imaginings about infidelity, betrayal, confrontation.
And of course – you can tell me I’m wrong. I have been called an art-hating twit. I had to have missed the point if I’m being this critical of it. But at the same time, if I missed the point, I’m damn certain not to be the only one. Yes, art Is subjective, and the play did have some merits that I’ll talk about in just a second, but let’s be honest with one another – you just can’t layer so much complexity into a play that you have to watch it five times in order to understand it. I suppose the interesting thing is that having us tell you the structure of the play going in might actually help your enjoyment of it.
Whether that’s too harsh or not, the silver lining and saving grace for Whispering Pines is the phenomenal portrayal of these very complex and secretive characters by actors Kris Joseph, Tracy Ferenz, & Paul Rainville. These three very talented actors took a very complex play and made it watchable. This was my first opportunity to see any of them perform and I can’t wait for the chance to see them again – in something that is a little less convoluted.
In the end, this play needed to be at least a little less abstract but there was a lot of pretty words and they were excellently staged and spoken.
Photo for this article provided by the Great Canadian Theatre Company.
Video production courtesy of Valley Wind Productions, produced by Allan Mackey.