English Theatre: Miranda Rose Hall’s «A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction»: Swan Song
Dernière mise à jour : 3 mai 2022
by Yanik Comeau (Comunik Média / ZoneCulture)
Like most Montreal theatres, Centaur has finally been able to reopen its doors to the public, first with the Wildside REMIX festival shows, now with its first post-pandemic original production, A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction by young award-winning American playwright Miranda Rose Hall. This post-pandemic, pre-apocalyptic one-woman play is just what the doctor ordered, in large part thanks to its excellent on-stage talent, actress Warona Setshwaelo, who plays dramaturg (when’s the last time a dramaturg was the main character of a play, I ask?) Naomi who pretty much does everything besides act within the small theatre company she runs with two other female artists.
But today, Naomi is forced to add yet another skill to her resume. Her partners have had to cancel the show they were planning on doing tonight and have asked Naomi to just go on stage and wing it in front of the audience. “You’ve researched the subject to death, girl, so just go on and talk”. The subject? Mass extinction. The past ones and the one we are presently provoking. You know, something light and unassuming.
Although Naomi is not a scientist and does not play one on TV, she does know a lot about the subject because her theatre company’s show is all about species going instinct, including homo sapiens who is the first actual living species to be responsible for a mass extinction, the one we are in right now.
Throughout the play, Miranda Rose Hall’s writing is generally crystal clear, accessible, not nerd-reserved, PHD-level scientific fodder that would fly clear over the heads of common folk… especially artistic common folk! The fourth-wall-breaking monologue is digestible without being pre-chewed, smart and poetic without being overly intellectual. In the last part, the scientific information about the number of endangered and disappearing species does become a bit heavy-handed and long-winded and might cause a certain “okay, we get it! Stop beating us over the head” kind of feeling in some audience members, but in the hands of Warona Setshwaelo, this is not a major issue. The actress’s warm, affable personality and excellent delivery combined with the character’s sense of humour and generally non-judgmental attitude despite the deadly-serious subject matter work very well together.
Julie Fox’s minimalistic set design (at first glance) is spot-on and comes to life with the magic of Paul Chambers’ lighting design.
All in all, overlooking the fact that it would have been great to reopen with a “local” script instead of an American play, the universal appeal of climate change and the excellence of Warona Setshwaelo’s performance trump the Baltimore, Maryland cultural and socioeconomic references that might be foreign to some but that most can transpose. Even with such a hard-hitting, urgent subject matter, it’s just really nice to reconnect with the Centaur.
A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction by Miranda Rose Hall
Directed by Rose Plotek
Starring Warona Setshwaelo
Set and Costume Designer: Julie Fox
Lighting Designer: Paul Chambers
Sound Designer: Jesse Peter Ash
Stage Manager : Luciana Burcheri
A Centaur Theatre Company production
April 26 to May 15th, 2022 (duration: 75 minutes, no intermission)
Centaur Theatre, 453, St. François-Xavier, Old Montreal
Photos: Andrée Lanthier