Pacamambo was actually intended for a young audience, nine and over, but Ken Gass, the artistic director of the newly-minted Canadian Rep Theatre and director of this production, was convinced that it would appeal to audiences, "nine to 99"!
The play is an examination of death, as seen through the eyes of a bright and articulate eleven year-old girl, Julie, admirably performed by Amy Keating, (not a child, but a reasonably youngish-looking adult).
The plot; Julie & her talking dog, Growl, passionately and convincingly performed by Michelle Polak, disappear for three weeks and are eventually discovered, alive in her grandmother's apartment storage locker, along with the decomposing body of her recently deceased grandmother, performed as a talking corpse by Kyra Harper.
A child psychiatrist, who is supposed to represent the adult, very practical, rational world and lacking in imagination, is performed by a too often irritated and impatient Karen Robinson. She eventually extracts Julie's intention, "to force Death to come and explain himself."
Most of the 60-minute production, in fact revolves around the psychiatrist's clumsy attempts to pierce Julie's anger and deconstruct her puzzling behavior. Eventually the shrink does reach Julie and in the process we discover what Julie means by Pacamambo and why she always refers to it. For Julie, it's a place of "universal empathy, a make-believe perfect world for childish thoughts."
Gass, has appropriately used stylized movement in addition to surreal lighting, music & set in order to achieve the required feel for this script.
The minimalist psychiatric hospital set (by Marian Wihak, is situated on what appears to be 'the flavour of the season stage', yet another 'alley theatre' arrangement. This means that there is a raked tier of seats on either side of the floor level stage/alley.
Director Gass called this script, "Lyrical (I agree), often funny (occasionally) and hugely life-affirming (somewhat)."
This script and production are intense and interesting and require an audience willing to suspend disbelief. I'm not entirely convinced that many adults are prepared to go that route.
The Citadel (308 Parliament Street)
January 21 to February 2, 2014
Wednesday-Saturday (except for opening night) at 8pm, Sunday at 2:30pm with a Saturday 2:30pm matinee on Feb 1, 2014
Tickets range from $24-$36 (discounts for students, youth, seniors, families and arts workers)
with previews $15 and Sunday matinees PAY-WHAT-YOU-CAN.
Directed by: Ken Gass
Starring: Kyra Harper, Amy Keating, Michelle Polak & Karen Robinson
Scenic design: Marian Wihak
Costume design: Jung-Hye Kim
Lighting design: Rebecca Picherack
Original music and sound design: Wayne Keslo