At the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in the Distillery District. Directed and Co-Created by Judith Thompson. Starring: Victoria Car (Musician), Sarah Carney, James Herbert Hazlett, Nicholas David Herd, Michael Liu, Dylan Harman Livaja, Suzanne Love, Nada Marie Christiane Mayla, Krystal Hope Nausbaum.
Plays at the Young Centre until March 2.
Rare is that rare piece of theatre that is in a class all its own. The stories come from the particular life experiences of the cast of ten actors, but are universal in scope. They want to find love; have babies; be independent; be respected; not thought to be stupid; not stared at. They have the same hopes and dreams that we all have with one difference: they all have Down Syndrome. And they all joyously, gently rattle our pre-conceived notions of what that means. The cast is not made up of professional actors but are professional.
Rare has been co-created by Judith Thompson and the cast. Thompson also directs. The play begins, A Chorus Line style, with the cast lining up in front of the edge of the stage, each wears a mask and each takes of his/her mask and tells us their name and what they hope for (love, a baby, etc.). This is followed by their comments about their lives; their struggles and challenges; their happy moments and disappointments. It is moving without being manipulative.
Besides being brave enough to tell their stories in front of an audience, the cast has learned invaluable theatre lessons, about trust, generosity, and giving support. For example, the wonderfully named Suzanne Love, a buoyant smiler, has a stammer which sometimes makes it difficult for her to get her thoughts out clearly. She tilts her head back struggling for the word. But always during that struggle one of her fellow actors is near her, sometimes with a hand on her shoulder, rubbing it gently, helping her through the lingustical road-block. In one case it was Krystal Hope Nausbaum, a diminutive red-head, who stroked Ms Love’s shoulder. In another case it was Nicholas David Herd (I believe) who held her hand and stroked it with his thumb, giving her support until she found the words. When he had a difficult time with poignant memory, she in turn stroked his hand with her thumb. I found that constant show of generosity and support so moving.
That said, Ms Love dances with such abandon and confidence she is eloquent, as are they all.
I have one quibble. The cast tell us what they are not: retarded, stupid, childish etc. What is missing is a definition of what Down Syndrome is besides the fact that they all have an extra chromosome. They telling us what Down Syndrome means would put it in context. It is unfair to assume we know. Besides that quibble, Rare is an uplifting, moving, funny, joyous theatrical experience.
Rare is deservedly held over until March 2.