Center Stage: ‘Kayak’ performance both gripping and heartbreaking
“Kayak,” written by Jordan Hall is a thought provoking play and winner of the 2010 Samuel French Canadian Playwrights Contest. This is one play that I would strongly suggest you see with a few friends, the discussions on the drive home will add food for thought.
Direction by gifted Stephan Hooper makes this production extraordinary instead of just good. Hooper has chosen an impressive cast of fine actors Lauren Drexler (Annie), Juan Alejandro (Peter) and Alex Holmes (Julie). Hooper staged this play in “the round,” enabling the play to move like a clock, forward, or backward in time. It was a touch of genius to engage the Mariner High School Robotics Club’s Robert Herring, Josh Wiggins and Kayak pilot August Taylor to design and manipulate a kayak, adrift somewhere off the coast of Vancouver. In talking with director Hooper after the performance last week, I found out about the challenges that this robotic kayak presented. The robotic boat was choreographed to follow certain, specific patterns. Not an easy task, may I assure you for both pilot and director. Kudos to both Hooper and kayak robotic pilot Taylor.
Alone on a vast stretch of water, Annie recounts the strange chain of events that left her stranded in her son’s old kayak. Annie is a doting suburban mother, who becomes blindsided when her obedient, reserved, restrained son, falls in love with Julie, a carefree, radical, free spirited, passionate environmental activist. Unable to reconcile herself to Julie’s radical worldview, Annie struggles desperately to keep son, Peter, from falling further into this young woman’s dangerous, defiant world. Julie’s trigger points go from climate change, to the processed foods (like the package of s’mores Annie has to eat in the kayak), SUV cars, and even Noah’s Ark.
So what else is Annie mentally dealing with in a kayak? She is struggling with an unhappy situation, a loss of control not only over being adrift on a boat and suffering from dehydration, but also dealing with loss of control over her son’s infatuation with Julie the environmental zealot. As it turns out this is not exactly the life she had planned for her son, this untenable situation is forcing her to struggle and fight with the woman who has not only stolen her son’s heart, a woman so wrapped up in her next crusade that she doesn’t even think of returning her precious son’s affection. Annie will go to great lengths to get what she wants and we the audience are ripe for manipulation, just like her son, husband and Julie.
Loren Drexler paints a picture of a strong, controlling woman who has lost control for the moment, she deeply cares for her son and will do what she must to get him back on track.
Julie (Alex Holmes) is also a tough woman, an earnest environmental protester who keeps trying and trying, traveling from one environmental disaster spot to another, even when it’s clear that she’s not doing much good.
Juan Alejandro as Peter, Annie’s son plays a perfect “man in the middle,” caught between following his heart and pleasing his Mom, even to the point of following the corporate life that mom enforces, which becomes a constant source of tension between him and Julie.
Food for Thought:
How many people, well-meaning parents give their children everything they want, keeping them safe at all times, never allowing them to take risks, fail, learn independence, fend for themselves, avoiding all hurt either physical or emotional? So that when a free spirit or raging radical enters their lives, their ability to risk everything becomes overwhelmingly attractive.
What’s missing in radicals that enables them to bust out, trying to change the world; even when they don’t have all the facts? They react by listening to the loudest voices, instead of resonating to the calm voice of reason.
The play touches on many questions:
Is enjoying the good life a betrayal of environmental and social responsibilities for those with little or less?
Does only violent or radical protest without any considerations for coexistence or consensuses achieve anything?
What obligations do children have to parents, when they want to strike out in risky ventures?
Is it ever OK to lie, or bend the truth to make your point? (Julie’s version of the Noah’s Ark)
Now, doesn’t that want to make you want to see this provocative, play for yourself; find out what your take is, and compare that with a friend’s? If your answer is yes, then call the Theatre Conspiracy’s Box Office now (239) 936-3239. When phoning remind ’em Marsha sent you!