2013 Next Stage Theatre Festival Review: The Peace Maker (Pomme Grenade Productions)

The Peace Maker, playing as part of the Next Stage Theatre Festival, follows the parallel stories of one woman, Sophie – a Canadian-Jewish musician, and her highly enthused and idealistic desire to forge her own bridge between two warring nations. Using elements of live music, song, and comedy to offset what could be a controversial tale, this is a performance that will get you laughing in your seats while being continuously moved.

The performance begins with Sophie (Rebecca Auerbech), the eager Canadian musician excited to start her foray in Palestine teaching music to Palestinian kids. There she slowly befriends Haneen (Harveen Sandhu), a girl with incredible musical potential but clouded by her high reservations towards western ‘do-gooders’ in her country. Parallel to this plotline, we see Sophie on her preceding Birthright trip to Jerusalem where, through her various encounters, her views of the conflicts are shaped and further influenced by her worldly ideals.

Any performance that concerns the conflicts in the Middle East is bound to stir up some controversy but the use of comedy is an exceptional tool to help break the otherwise sensitive subject matter. The comedy is evident and you are bound to laugh. Another great tool that The Peace Maker uses in spades is music. The cast is not only filled with amazing acting talent but with phenomenal musical chops. Auerbach shines with guitar and vocals while Sandhu plays a mean jazz piano, all adding to their exceptional theatrical performances.

Sitting among the audience is the live band that plays a key role in the scene transitions and soundtrack. Their musicianship is rather impressive and, considering that a couple of them are still in high school, bears evidence that the talent evident in this performance is one not to be missed. In fact, I wish there was a soundtrack to this show. I felt hauntingly drawn to the vocals of Maryem Tollar whose mesmerizing voice singing in Arabic gave me chills.

This tale serves as a cautious reminder of how deep these conflicts can run and why it continues to this day. For many westerners, we study the conflicts and politics in university and see the evidence on the news but we haven’t lived it and for those that have, societal ties run deep and are difficult to overcome.


Photo of Harveen Sandhu by Jacklyn Atlas.