By Deena Kinarthy
Joan MacLeod’s latest play “The Valley”, which opened last week at the Belfry Theatre, is a literary triumph of a deeply human and deeply compassionate, yet realistic portrayal of a young man suffering from a mental illness, and his brush with a Vancouver Police officer.
This is a play not only about the boy Conner’s journey through the highs and lows of mental illness, it is also a play about struggling relationships. Connor (a role played convincingly by Vancouver-based actor Matt Reznek) and his attitude towards his loving mother, Sharon (played with great sensitivity by Colleen Wheeler) starts to decline along with his interest in university, while he fights depression and what is clearly the early stages of psychosis. We can sympathize with the cop’s ex-drug addict wife (played by Rebecca Auerbach) as she struggles with being a new mother and fighting old habits, while trying to keep her marriage intact. Even the cop, Dan (played by Luc Roderique), although seemingly brutish at times, is also troubled and personally affected by the things he has to deal with in his job.
Joan MacLeod is able to peer inside each character’s head, and tell their side of the story with authenticity and truth. There are no winners or losers here, but just people dealing with a difficult situation as best as they can, each in their own way.
MacLeod’s language is topical and familiar- there are many references to recognizable street names or places in Vancouver, and her characters each have distinct voices.
The circular set design by Pam Johnson works seamlessly, using grey platforms interchangeably as podiums and tables. Painted in the dreary color, the design also adds to the sense of place and mood of the piece- after all it is set in dreary, rainy Vancouver. As well, the grey spotted tones reflect the state of the mind of its main character.
The Valley is a meaningful and important piece of theatre. A difficult subject at times, but still worth seeing.
Playing until February 28, for ticket info visit http://www.Belfry.bc.ca