As a person walks along a short stone corridor leading into L’UniThÄ‚Â©atre, the sweet perfume of cut wood charges the senses.
It is a comforting smell that wafts from the Bone Cage’s set, a stark, all-encompassing lumber-constructed build designed by Brian Bast.
But playwright Catherine Banks’ play is anything but calm and serene. Bone Cage is a dark, painful production that examines the struggles of five people so rooted to the land and its people they cannot leave even if it means their destruction.
Jamie works as a tree processor for a local lumber company, a job that strips trees bare for the chain saw. It leaves dead birds’ broken nests in its wake. He sees the destruction of nature and it slowly erodes his psyche.
However, Jamie lives in a small Nova Scotia town and the lumber industry is the major source of jobs. He has few choices. He dreams of going to helicopter school in British Columbia, but his grades are too low.
Like the birds and animals trapped in the processor, Jamie is ensnared in a meagre existence that revolves around a vicious circle – work he hates, beer, sex, and trying to earn his father’s recognition and love.
To make matters worse, Jamie is entering a loveless marriage with Krista, a naÄ‚Ĺ»ve 17-year-old high school girl. Freedom for her means marriage and living in Jamie’s trailer as a respected housewife. Unfortunately, Krista wears blinders and stubbornly refuses to see there is no future in town.
Jamie’s best friend Kevin is an 18-year-old hothead trying to understand his place in society. With little to do in the community, he attends a party that ends in a beating and sexual assault.
Our protagonist’s father, Clarence, is a man who becomes emotionally and psychologically paralyzed after his nine-year-old son Travis dies. His sanity is in question after he buys into a crackpot company’s promise to clone his son.
The only person with the temerity to break away from her dysfunctional roots is Chicky, Jamie’s sister. But she too is a wounded bird. For almost a decade, Chicky maintains an affair with a married man, dreaming he will leave his wife. He never does.
The seven-actor ensemble is a tight-knit group with an intriguing chemistry. Neil Kuefler as Jamie is the quintessential blue-collar worker whose life is out of focus and spiralling dangerously out of control. Kuefler looks the part as he clinks beer bottles and takes us through Jamie’s various depression-layered stages with compassion, anger and regret.
St. Albert actress Karina Cox is Krista, a kittenish version of Bridezilla, a naÄ‚Ĺ»ve young woman so set on making wedding day plans that she never questions whether she’s marrying the right man. Cox’s Krista is a blend of child and woman, of dreamy innocence and petulant stubbornness.
Alyson Dicey gives a riveting performance as the assaulted Chicky and Andy Northrup as the crazy, emotionally stunted father comes across as both empathetic and shocking.
Last but not least, former St. Albert drama teacher Byron Trevor Martin as Kevin delivers an angst-ridden, volcanic performance. Martin easily steals the spotlight with Kevin’s anger and thirst for vengeance that goes terribly wrong.
Director Heather Inglis navigates the play’s emotional twists and turns of this dysfunctional family and their relationships with a steady hand. While Inglis is eager to relay the message that destruction of the land equates to the destruction of its frontline workers, the argument can also be made that people are masters of their destiny. Those who refuse to take risks to better their lives are forever doomed to repeat their mistakes.
An artist talk-back featuring Catherine Banks, Heather Inglis and Kuefler will be held tonight, Wednesday, Sept. 30 following the 7:30 p.m. performance.
Runs until Oct. 4
La CitÄ‚Â© Francophone
8627 – 91 St.
Tickets: 780-420-1757 or online tixonthesquare.ca