Monday, 9 April 2012

Off-topic - Dionysus in Stony Mountain - A review

This past Wednesday night, I went to watch Dionysus in Stony Mountain with my classmates.

First, getting to the theatre was no problem, as it was a short walk from campus. I stayed, because i didn't want to commute all the way back to my place in River Heights just to change. So staying was convenient. The theatre itself, called the Rachel Browne Theatre, located on Bannatyne Avenue, felt like a small, yet simple and classy establishment. Coming to a smaller-than-average theatre, I felt like my huge backpack was a bit of a hazard to the people around me, so I tried to make myself as small as possible.

That's just how I am. I don't expect a lot from the people around me, so I stay humble.

The seating was good, but not fantastic. The comfort was there, the space not so much. Thankfully, no one sat on my left side, so I was able to put my backpack beside me to leave me with some leg room.

The play itself made me find myself in a mix of a history class and a soap opera. But in a good way.

Heidi Prober, played by Sarah Constible, was at her job at the Stony Mountain Institution, talking to her patient James Hiebert, played by Ross McMillan, who refused to take his medication, and has become obsessed with the works of Friedrich Nietzsche. James was in prison for the murder of his wife and is a much different person when he's off the meds. A lot of the first act was focused on James, as he would move around the stage, talking straight from a Nietzsche book, sort of engaging the audience, as if they were his students.

I don't think many plays do that, so this was definitely refreshing to experience this sort of communication, when the audience is indirectly involved, making the audience members actually feel like they're part of the play.

Heidi tries to snap James out of this philosophical dilemma that he is in, but James keeps on going how society has changed regarding its view on criminals, that instead of punishing them with hard labour and putting a strict eye on them, criminals nowadays get special treatment, actually producing more crimes instead of reducing them. Heidi confronts James about his refusal to take his medication, but James keeps asking why she comes to Stony Mountain, and how she feels about her job. Turns out, she hates it, and so she promises James that she'll quit her job after she gets James out of prison by guiding him through his parole hearing. The act ends with Heidi giving James his medication, and the two leave the room together.

The first act left me wondering what would happen next, but I had a hunch that Heidi would actually quit her job.

And she did. The second act started with Heidi's letter to her parents, roughly explaining why she quit her job. There was some humour in there, and it also seemed to have somewhat gone off her rails of sanity to get the audience to laugh. Works for me.

We then move to Heidi's new home, where she's doing insulation work. She gets a surprise visit from her Uncle Eric, played by McMillan as well, who came from sunny Florida to see her. From the rather harsh welcome from Heidi, we get somewhat of a clue for why Heidi has been so hyped up recently. After a lot of back and forth between herself and her uncle, we get to see Heidi come clean. James, her last patient, took his own life in her very basement. She was very shaken by that. Uncle Eric tries to comfort her and ease her mind. The play ends with them working on the insulation, stuffing the padding into the wall between the wooden planks. Light fade to black, audience clapping.

It was a well-deserved applause. Dionysus in Stony Mountain was a great experience, being a small-budget production. The acting kept me paying attention throughout the play, and while Nietzsche's words were hard to understand, James thankfully made it clear in his own words. A lot of the play was targeted towards our minds and encouraged us to think about society and criminals, and how much the world has changed.

Engaging the mind is healthy, just like warming the heart. Except it leaves you thinking critically. Heidi and James did just that, and it's worth experiencing it yourself.

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