Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Underground Railway Theater Tackles Climate Change - "Sila" by Chantral Bilodeau at Central Square Theater

As part of its ongoing partnership with the Catalyst Collaboration @MIT, Underground Railway Theater is presenting the World Premiere of "Sila," a play written by Chantal Bilodeau and directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian.  The word "Sila" is the Inuit word for "breath."  The play addresses the issue of climate change, and is set in the Canadian Arctic on Baffin Island.

This play is the culmination of many years of cooperation among a broad variety of stake holders who feel strongly that the message of the dangers of climate change needs to be widely disseminated.  The result is a visually impressive production that has many strong elements working for it, but one that is not always an artistic success.

Let me begin by accentuating the positive.  Scenic Designer Szu-Feng Chen has done a remarkable job of turning the stage at Central Square Theater into a chilling arctic wonderland.  lbulana Borovci's costumes enhance the effect, as do the Lighting Design by David Roy and Sound Design by Emily Auciello.  Completing the polar effect is the wondrous puppetry, with a team of puppet designers and puppeteers working magic with a mother and cub pair of polar bears.  Think "Lion King" or "War Horse," and you have an idea of the beauty of these puppets.  David Fichter, Will Cabell, Brad Shir, Matthew Woellert and Penny Benson all played a role in bringing these creatures to life.

The culturally diverse cast of seven plus two puppeteers works hard to tell a complex story of vanishing ice, vanishing species and an endangered Inuit culture on Baffin Island.  The reason that this play was not a complete success in my eyes is that I felt that the playwright was trying to do too much at once - too many subplots, too much preaching and speechifying and too many cliches.  It is clear that Ms. Bilodeau has a deep affection for Baffin Island, its people and its fragile ecosystem.  Her heart has driven her to try too hard to get the audience to share those deep feelings.  Despite some cracks in the script, this play is compelling to watch, and is worthy of audience support.


Kuvageegai - Jaime Carrillo
Leanna - Renaltta Arluk
Jean - Nael Nacer
Thomas - Robert Murphy
Veronica/Monca - Sophori Ngin
Daughter - Theresa Nguyen
Raphael - Danny Bryck

Shadow Puppeteer - Gabrielle Weiler
Bear Puppeteer - Skye Ellis

April 24 - May 25, 2014
by Chantal Bilodeau
directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian
World Premiere
Produced by Underground Railway Theater
A Catalyst Collaborative@MIT project

Central Square Theater Website

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