There is a lot going on in Camila’s Bones, Maloka Theatre Collective’s current production playing at Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace at SummerWorks. Think Brave New World meets The Handmaid’s Tale with a bit of District 9, Children of Men and No One Is Illegal activism thrown in for extra spice.
Camila’s Bones is a dystopic play set in the foreseeable future. Camila is an immigrant from South America who flees hardship and disaster to survive in a new environment where her citizenship status is very low.
Concurrently, Devin, a genetic engineer (read eugenicist) and his evangelical wife Chloe cannot have children. Devin is hard at work trying to engineer a genetic class of disconnected and emotionless workers while his depressive wife wants to have a baby.
Camila works in a pig rendering factory and her escape and upward mobility rest with her willingness to bear the couple a child. Her boss Roger’s aunt Menchi brokers the deal but disaster strikes before all parties can hold up their end of the very illegal transaction. No unauthorized births are allowed in this world order.
Storyteller Alejandro Valbuena incorporates juxtaposing themes in his play: Christianity vs. indigeneity; aridity vs. fertility; passion vs. control. In the program notes Valbuena writes that the story came to him as he was “wandering around and grappling with ideas of identity, displacement and disconnection”.
Because there are so many stories being told, the script itself suffers from too much wandering and grappling. The play is ninety minutes long but feels longer. Not enough attention is paid to very challenging subjects. As a result, the message is not as effective as it could be.
My guest and I both agreed we wanted fewer storylines and more development of the pertinent one, namely, Camila’s journey.
Fiorella Pennano is a breath of fresh air as Camila. She marries her character’s youthful dissidence with ancient wisdom. She is hardened yet hopeful.
Eddson Morales portrays Roger in a struggle between love and duty, industry and feeling. I was rooting for Roger and was disheartened when he succumbed to his own social conditioning.
Angela Besharah and Stephen Bogaert both need more space and time to develop their characters’ very complex relationship. My guest thought their characters verge on caricatures; I felt their intentions weren’t always clear or precise and their emotional shifts were unjustified at times.
Lucy Filippone steals the show as the crass, bawdy and outspoken Menchi. Her turns of phrases are rude and outlandish. Her physical choices are almost too large for the play but she provides levity exactly how and when I needed it.
The set is simple and the production incorporates all areas of the stage. I was especially impressed with the projections and sound design. The projections display Camila’s personal data stream. The projections also represent blood and genes during very graphic moments.
At the top of the show, the score is a blend of steely, industrial and futuristic sounds with the sound of a woman humming a lullaby.
I was also impressed with the understated choreography of the workers in the pig plant. They slow down to give focus to the principal characters and maintain the repetitive movement of factory work.
Like the canon of dystopic film, theatre, literature and art that informs it, Camila’s Bones provides a warning of what society is and can become. It is a warning bell that rings loud enough for anyone brave enough to hear it.
- Camila’s Bones is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson Avenue)
- Remaining performances are Sunday August 11, 9:00 pm; Monday August 12, 1:30 pm; Thursday August 15, 4:00 pm; Friday August 16, 9:00 pm; Saturday August 17, 6:30 pm.
- All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-915-6747 and at the Lower Ossington Box Office (100A Ossington Avenue, first floor) Aug. 6-18 10AM-7PM (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee).
- Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.
Photo of Camila’s Bones by Alejandro Valbuena