Book of Jobes inspires attitude shift
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Saturday, Feb 16, 2013 06:00 am
Book of Jobes
Lone Sparrow Productions with Company Family Theatre and Fire Exit Theatre
Sunday, Feb. 17 at 2 p.m.
King’s University College Theatre, Knopper’s Hall
9125 – 50th St.
Tickets: $10 at door
Lori Mohacsy is small and slender, barely five-feet tall with the sweet voice of a nightingale.
At first glance, the St. Albert actress’ diminutive figure is almost a direct contradiction to the strong German character she plays in Book of Jobes – a mother both mentally and physically tough enough to defy conventional medical wisdom.
But somehow Mohacsy makes the incongruity work.
In this latest remount under the direction of Jan Taylor, Mohacsy’s character is raising a daughter, Rachel, severely handicapped by cerebral palsy. As the main caregiver, she strongly believes in medical science, but balks at doctors’ recommendations for institutionalizing Rachel.
“I’m supposed to be the strong mom, but I want to bawl and bawl. It’s a challenge for me because I’m sensitive. Jan has really challenged me to be loving in a strong way. You find moments to be softer and more tender, but you don’t let them take over,” Mohacsy says.
Book of Jobes, running as a one-day show on Sunday, Feb. 17 at King’s University College, is part biblical allegory, part philosophical debate. It was inspired after playwright Heidi Janz developed a crisis of faith after a violent assault.
Janz, who also suffers from cerebral palsy but overcame enormous obstacles to receive a doctorate in English, was attacked one night in her apartment. The young intruder stabbed her three times, strangled her and left her for dead.
When Edmonton police apprehended the young man, he stated that the only reason he didn’t kill Janz was that he saw a bright light and believed it was God.
“To process this, Heidi started writing it as a catharsis. She started questioning God’s providence and how lives are brought together,” Mohacsy further explains.
Throughout the play, Rachel Jobes is partnered with Gandalf, her guardian angel.
“She lays a charge of wrongful life against God and through the play reveals moments of extreme obstacles that were seemingly unfair. The guardian angel shows her that God gave her moments of prosperity and abundance,” Mohacsy says.
For those who saw the production at Edmonton Fringe Festival in 2011, it is not a spoiler to mention that Rachel must overcome several emotional hurdles. They include the deaths of two close friends and collaborators as well as seeing her mother develop dementia.
“Every time she feels she made a move forward, God hits her with another event.”
The project was launched three years ago and since then has received numerous readings and six or seven workshops. Since its inception, Rebecca Starr has handled the lead.
“She’s brilliant. She spent a lot of time with Heidi studying movements and speech patterns. Heidi has these physical spasms that are in there and some things have been added for dramatic effect. Her (Rebecca’s) ability to go in and out of heaven – that Gandalf space – from slurred to non-slurred speech is exceptional.”
Since its 2011 version, Taylor has replaced the production’s canned music with the New West Symphony and Chorus from Calgary.
In addition to singing a cappella, the 14-voice choir will produce all the show’s sound effects with drums and chimes.
“Having live music heightens the whole piece. It gells it more. We’re more a unit. Before it felt choppy. The choir makes it organic.”
Taylor has dubbed the choir “the floating heads” and in essence their function is that of the Greek chorus. They are watchers, they comment and they are the jury observing human interaction.
Mohacsy adds that everyone in the cast, whether Christian or non-Christian, has been touched by Janz, a scholar now teaching disability ethics at the University of Alberta.
“She’s an inspiration and she’s really funny,” Mohacsy says.
As for the production’s effects on the theatre patrons, she adds, “It’s beautiful and it challenges us to see people with disabilities in a different way. It helps us to see life’s challenges in a new way and face them with a different attitude.”