By Adam Collier
This Toronto play for children carries subject matter that is not easy, but it is important
The action is set in a Holocaust museum in Japan, and follows two kids (Zoe Doyle as Maiko, and Dale Yim as Akira) that are curious about the owner of one of its exhibits: a suitcase.
Learning more about the suitcase owner – a girl in her early teens named Hana Brady –means approaching some (very difficult) historical questions.
Hana’s Suitcase grapples with this challenge using a two-act structure: it offers formal answers in its first half and personal answers in the second. The change occurs because the characters receive a letter (in reply to one they wrote) from Hana’s brother, George (Clarence Sponagle).
We hear from George what the government records do not report. Hana was a victim of discrimination against Jews. Hana (Amy Lee) was generous to her family (giving them her own food) while suffering in a camp where she would see others die before going to the gas chamber herself.
Hana’s Suitcase got a mixed reaction from the audience on the afternoon I attended. The house was full of high school students (including the entire grade nine of one school). They threw pencils and coins at the stage in the first act.
In the second act, nothing was thrown and there was none of the intermittent low talking and half-muffled giggling of before.
Two factors might account for the change: the stage manager’s warning about the dangers of hard projectiles and the fact that the storytelling shifts from passive narration to active events in the second act.
In spite of the audience’s behaviour (that, I found-out later from the stage manager, was unusual), Hana’s Suitcase is a worthwhile experience. Hana’s Suitcase shows precisely how the Nazi campaign of discrimination and execution intersected with the life of one girl. The candour is heartbreaking and necessary, and for that, I’d recommend it.
– Hana’s Suitcase is playing at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People (165 Front Street East; between Parliament and Jarvis)
– The show is Monday through Saturday; at 10:15 Monday through Friday, with 1:00 shows on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; and a 2:00 show on Sunday. The theatre is dark on Saturdays.
– Tickets can be purchased at the box office, by phone (please call (416-862-2222) or online (please click here for the link)