Deceitful Above All Things was an unexpected treat. Set in Quebec in 1667, it explores the experience of some French settlers as they try to survive a first winter in the harsh environment of New France. It sounds like the sort of thing a proper Canadian should see. Awful reasoning, but it worked out in my favour this SummerWorks!
Marguerite and Anne are bound together after a traumatic experience on the ship over. Anne has since found a husband, but she harbours feelings for a Jesuit priest. The priest shares her passion, but has a whole heap of Catholic guilt alongside. Marguerite, pregnant with no husband, shuns the matchmaking attempts of an over-zealous community leader (who thinks of herself as the “midwife of the new nation”) and is holding out for the return of the half French/half Native man who rescued her from a bear attack.
The script, penned by Genevieve Adam (who also plays the feisty Anne), has compelling characters and an abundance of atmospheric details. You barely need Nancy Anne Perrin’s evocative projections or Erin Gerofsky’s rich costumes to get that perfect sense of time and place. The text alone tells us, in no uncertain terms, that these are determined people surrounded by threatening wilderness.
Director Erin Brandenburg has emphasized the poetry in this text with visually provocative moments that never feel artsy; the action is always urgent.
The performances range from functional to arresting, but Genevieve Adam is, by far, my favourite presence on stage. Her character exhibits the widest emotional range and she owns, by far, the funniest moments.
At a time when we want our dramas to be full of ambiguous motivations and allusive morality, there is something so refreshing about characters with such clear and precise convictions. Every character knows exactly who they are, what they stand for and what they want. That doesn’t mean the story or its characters are lacking depth. No matter how steadfast in their beliefs people may be, life gets very messy when those convictions clash. And it makes for exciting drama.
Deceitful Above All Things is an entertaining and well-crafted piece of theatre with a darker, more provocative final moment than I expected.
Deceitful Above All Things plays at Factory Theatre Mainspace (125 Bathurst Street)
- Sunday August 9th 9:15 PM
- Tuesday August 11th 9:15 PM
- Wednesday August 12th 7:00 PM
- Thursday August 13th 10:00 PM
- Saturday August 15th 2:00 PM
Individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Live Art Series tickets are free – $20. Tickets are available online at http://summerworks.ca, by phone at 888-328-8384, Monday – Friday 8:30am-5pm, in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth – located at SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St). Open August 4-16 from 10am-7pm (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows
Image provided by the company.