The L’Amoreaux Collegiate Institute production of The Devil You Know, written/directed by Wendy Krekeler is the Toronto Regional Showcase selection for a SummerWorks/Sears Ontario Drama Festival partnership. The show opened last night for a three-show run at the Scotiabank Studio Theatre in the Pia Bouman School for Ballet and Creative Movement.
Based on a true story, Krekeler and the real-life Rachel started writing the play a year ago as part of Rachel’s process of coming to terms with her abuse – the resulting script giving a voice to her broken silence during the writing of the play and her work on recovery.
The cast of The Devil You Know includes: Darla Biccum, Jonelle Gunderson, Sarah Irankhah, Wendy Krekeler, Karen Lee, Rielle Ritchie and Muhammad Tameem; several of the cast are high school students or recent grads. The play also includes original music by Ritchie – some lovely, haunting and fervent cello and guitar arrangements. And the set design, by Ritchie and Cindy Bang, features some beautifully painted unit cubes (used to create furniture), each with eerie black and white imagery: one an ink blot design that appears bird-like, but also like the face of a menacing man, another two have a bird with eyes on its wings, and the other two a raven and a skeleton hand.
Nice work from the entire cast, with a few stand-outs: Ritchie gives a strong performance as Rachel, who seeks help when her suicidal thoughts get too close to the bone; Ritchie finds a nice balance between Rachel’s vulnerability and strength as she struggles to deal with her abusive home life and subsequent recovery process. Irankhah is solid, warm and nurturing, yet gently challenging, as Rachel’s therapist – everything you’d want a therapist to be. And Gunderson shows a lovely range in her performance as three supporting characters, giving an extremely well-crafted and moving performance as Franka, an incest survivor sharing an account of her experience.
The back of The Devil You Know program has contact info for the Kids Help Phone. Like the incest survivor characters in the play, there are kids out there in the real world – like the real-life Rachel – who need someone to listen and someone to help. And a play like this one helps give those kids a voice – and is eye-opening for an audience. It’s not always an easy play to watch, but it’s a very worthwhile experience.
The Devil You Know is a brave, raw and moving account of one young woman’s struggle to survive incest – respectfully and truthfully told by a fine cast.
The Devil You Know has two more performances: tonight (Friday, August 8) at 7:30pm and Sunday, August 10 at 1:00pm.