Having previously worked with First Nations teen moms, I was particularly interested in watching the SummerWorks show Maria Gets a New Life. Cherish Violet Blood, who plays the First Nations single mom Maria Grace, was captivating right from the beginning as she commanded the stage with her black high-heel boots and strong presence.
There was a sense of mystery right from the beginning when the audience walked into the theatre and saw a stage filled with stacked empty boxes. What could all those boxes mean? We later discover that it was a very creative set-design to resemble a vacant house that Maria and her two teenage children, Honey and Baby, inhabited.
Most of us have experienced a parent ‘lying’ to us when we were children. Whether they said there was a tooth fairy or Santa Claus, as kids we believed them wholeheartedly and without reservation. As kids however, we eventually caught our parents red-handed in telling the white lie but still continued to love them regardless. Similarly, Maria would sometimes use the same tactics to protect her children from the truth. Whether it was to protect them from learning that she was a fugitive, or to give them the belief that they were living a ‘normal’ life, Maria would tell her children outrageous stories that were often injected with a great deal of humour.
There were a few uncomfortable moments in the play. One of them was when the character Baby grabbed his genitals every once in a while and then eventually stripped nude and shook his penis to his sister and mom. Even though I understand that young boys may do this, I had a hard time watching it and wasn’t sure it was necessary to the overall story for him to strip naked. Another moment was Maria explaining to Baby that his sister and soon-to-be teenage mom Honey, was ganged raped and that was why she was pregnant. Though a powerful issue to touch on, some of the humour that followed that discussion took away from the seriousness of the issue and made it harder to connect or feel sympathy for the character.
Overall, however, the play had some wonderful endearing moments between Maria and her two children. As an audience member, we could feel her struggle as she faced her own circumstances while also trying to protect her children. I’m always delighted that a collection of diverse issues and stories are conveyed in festivals such as SummerWorks and Maria Gets a New Life is just one of those plays that touched on some of those issues and stories.
- Maria Gets a New Life is playing at the Lower Ossington Theatre.
- Show Times: Monday August 12, 10:00 pm; Tuesday August 13, 5:00 pm; Thursday August 15, 2:30 pm; Friday August 16, 7:30 pm; Saturday August 17, 10:00 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