The Enchanted Loom - Theatre Review

By: Paul Lewkowicz and Alison Silveira

The Enchanted Loom is a play that tenderly portrays the effects of war on a person’s psyche. Written by Suvendrini Lena, a neurologist, the play focuses on the painful struggle of Thangan, a Tamil political activist from Sri Lanka living in Canada with his family. He suffers from – and seeks to address – the scars left from being subject to torture during the Sri Lankan government’s mass offensive to obtain control of the Tamil Tigers' territory. The effects of Thangan’s struggle have a profound impact on his family, as they too, struggle to deal with memories of the war that have ravaged their minds, bodies and relationships. 

The memories of war have an impact on both those who experienced it and their descendants who have never lived in the conflict zone. The play poignantly situates itself in the context of a diaspora working hard to highlight inequities where the Canadian populace is generally unfamiliar with the plight of minorities in Sri Lanka. 

Thangan and his wife, Sevi (Zorana Sadiq) had to make difficult choices and the way in which they grapple with the consequences is heartbreaking. Sadiq plays the matriarch with grace and steadfastness. As we learn more about Sevi, Sadiq is able to break through her tough exterior and we see how the harrowing effects of war have changed her. So often, the mother is the glue that holds the family together, and Sevi is no exception. She also does not have much of a choice and strives to put her family's needs ahead of her own. Sevi is haunted by the choices she has made in the past and buries her passions to try and forget. But, with Thangan's post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis, forgetting and burying the past is futile. Kawa Ada's portrayal of Thangan and Sevi's sons Kanaan and Kavalan is superb. He is able to play the precocious son with ease and transforms into a child soldier that commands attention. 

Although there are many scenes with the characters spouting verbose medical jargon and the play can be slow to build its story, The Enchanted Loom has powerful performances from its cast and a tremendous second act. The sparse, sterile set serves as a canvass for the characters to paint their rich, colourful and complicated story. And, it's is an important story that needs to be told, as PTSD and other mental illnesses have been and continue to be stigmatized, especially in minority communities. Furthermore, the play serves to create awareness of Sri Lanka's brutal civil war, the post-conflict struggles and the injustices that many have faced.

The Enchanted Loom is certainly dense and difficult to digest, but the small space provides for an intimate evening for the audience to get up close and personal with the characters and be transformed by the story. 

The Enchanted Loom plays at the Studio Theatre (125 Bathurst Street) until November 27, 2016. Tickets are $25 - $35 and are available for purchase at factorytheatre.ca/tickets.

Photos by Dahlia Katz.

Salt-Water Moon - Theatre Review

By: Saema Nasir

Anchored by a love story, David French's award-winning play, Salt-Water Moon is a raw look at Newfoundland’s history post-World War I. The story takes the audience through the trials and tribulations suffered by working class men and women both during and after the war. The heart of the story centers around a rocky reunion between two former lovers, Mary Snow and Jacob Mercer. Delving into the experiences of Newfoundlanders through their lenses, the play explores the former couple's passionate past, tempestuous present and uncertain future. 

Ravi Jain’s adaptation gives us an intimate look into the lives of Jacob and Mary by creating an ethereal, romantic space where their story unfolds. The bare-bones stage is alight with candles strewn all over and the young lovers are illuminated by them. The cast truly shines; from Kawa Ada’s charismatic portrayal of Jacob to Ania Soul’s moving narration and enigmatic singing voice. However, it is Mayko Nguyen who truly stands out with her depiction of a young woman coming into her own. She is both bitter and hopeful, steely and soft, hard-headed, yet a dreamer. Nguyen adds a level of depth to the character with her authentic and emotionally charged performance. 

Soul's narration of French's stage directions is a unique artistic choice that Jain employs. Almost everything she recites is contradicted by the actions of the characters. This element adds to the layers and complexities of the characters. While audiences may grapple with the thread-bare set design, it is the heart of the story that captures our imagination and holds our attention. French has created characters that we can truly care about. We wonder about their struggles, aspirations and potential. 

The rich storyline coupled with outstanding acting makes Salt-Water Moon a moving production that will tug at your heartstrings and remind you of your first love. 

Salt-Water Moon plays at the Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street) until March 13, 2016. Tickets can be purchased online at www.factorytheatre.ca.

Photos: Joseph Michael Photography

Saema Nasir is a marketing communications specialist who blogs, writes, paints & explores her beautiful city of Toronto. She has a Masters in Public Relations and also blogs at thecityquill.com. Follow her on Twitter @saemanasir