Got out to one final SummerWorks show yesterday – this time, it was Theatre Free Radical’s production of playwright/director Len Falkenstein’s Utopia at the Lower Ossington Theatre mainspace.
Karen (Rebekah Chassé), a single mother struggling to keep the family Christmas tree farm afloat, witnesses a bizarre and wondrous moment when a planet drops anchor – a bridge, a stairway to the sky – in her backyard. The event brings further tension to Karen’s already strained relationship with her daughter Jess (Sam Kamras), who in turn now has a more complicated relationship with farm hand Zach (Jake Martin, who does double duty as Karen’s doctor) after a wild night that some believe is their last on Earth. Family-connected lawyer Connor (Michael Holmes-Lauder, who also plays The President) is invited to assist with the situation, and this arrangement brings complications of its own. Visits to the planet yield vastly differing reports of what the visitor finds there, including the observations of a group of scientists, but all experiences are extremely positive. As the story unfolds, legal, corporate, government and scientific interests – not to mention a media circus – come into play as people strive to understand the nature of the planet, dubbed “Utopia,” what it means for mankind and what how they can benefit from it. Meanwhile, Karen has been ill since the planet’s arrival. Is she connected to the planet. If so, how, why and what does it mean?
There are some lovely images and moments in Utopia, with projection on a three-panel fabric screen used to show both space and place (designed by Holmes-Lauder). The play has an intimate, storytelling feel to it, and the ensemble cast does a nice job of capturing the wonder, confusion and trepidation of the situation with urgency and pathos. “Utopia” becomes a symbol of hope – and hope is very much in the eye of the beholder.
SummerWorks wrapped up last night. Check out Theatre Free Radical – they’re based in Fredericton, New Brunswick and focus on topical, thought-provoking material.