Friday, March 06, 2015

Apollinaire Theatre Company Presents "Greenland" by Nicolas Billon - A Great Way To Chill Out This Weekend!

Greenland is both chilling and fascinating.  This statement is true both of the literal land mass of Greenland, and of the eponymous play by Nicolas Billon now being presented by the always intriguing Apollinaire Theatre Company in Chelsea.

"Nicolas Billon's play takes the real-life discovery of the Warming Island off the coast of Greenland and uses it as a metaphor for the discovery of rifts and fault lines in a family."

This is the set-up for an unusual three-person play in which the characters never interact with one another.  The Warming Island was discovered after the retreating ice cap revealed that this small outcropping of land was not in fact attached to the mainland.  The island contains three peninsulas, separate from one another, like three fingers - barren and isolated.  The playwright brilliantly uses this topographical.anomaly to examine the relationship - or lack thereof - among Jonathan, Tanya and Judith.  Jonathan (Dale J. Young) is a glaciologist who has discovered this island with which he becomes obsessed.  Judith (Christine Power) is his wife who feels abandoned and left out in the cold by a husband who would rather take ice borings than spend a boring evening alone with her.  Tanya (Charlotte Kinder) is the orphaned niece of Jonathan and Judith. It is her description of her school project on Greenland that opens the play and sets the tone for the entire one act drama.  She intersperses her proclamations of "Fact" with heart-felt musings about her longings and hurts.  Of the three characters, this fourteen year-old displays a balance between rational thought and emotional presence that escapes the two adults.

In one of his early monologues, Jonathan describes what he does as a glaciologist.  He takes borings of ice, and then takes the ice samples back to a lab and tears them apart layer by layer to reconstruct what must have happened in the past in the spot where the ice was pierced.  And this is exactly what the playwright has the three characters do in their monologues.  They deconstruct their past and reveal to the audience a bit at a time what has gone on for them.  Each of the three actors is brilliant. Ms. Kinder is a very believable teenager, awkward one moment and then vulnerable and profound the next.  Mr. Young is all sang froid with his glass of whiskey in his hand, describing how a New York Times reporter taught him to describe his work in a way that creates mystery and myth: "Why not call yourself  'The Ice Whisperer'!"  Ms. Power is volcanic in her rage at being excluded from whatever spark of connection exists between her husband and her niece.  Her smoking a cigartte and defiantly describing her self-destructive habit reinforces the volcanic rage.

On the surface, this may appear to be a play about global warming and climate change.  In fact, it is a drama about the chilling Chekhovian failure of these three individuals to connect with one another in any meaningful way. Director Meg Taintor does an excellent job in pacing the action and positioning these three actors on their separate peninsulas - agonizingly close in a spatial sense, but heart-breakingly distant in their loneliness and barren isolation. The fact that Judith reveals that she is indeed barren only serves to reinforces this motif.

Sound by David Reiffel, Scenic Design by Matheus Fiuza and Lighting Design by Danielle Fauteux Jacque create an environment that allows the audiecne to feel that we have been transported to another place.  There is a hanging piece that sometimes serves as a scrim that undergoes subtle changes of lighting.  At one point, the lighting reveals a three-dimensional suggestion of three separate ridge lines - the three peninsulas of The Warming Island, emblematic of the play's three peninsular characters.

Apollinaire has partnered with Dr. Carl Gladish of MIT to discuss "The Human Side of Science" in talk-backs on Friday, February 27 and Sunday, March 8th.  I found Dr. Gladish to be quite warm - especially for a glaciologist/climatologist.

The play will run through March 15.  (Note that the role of Judith will be played by Gillian Mackay-Smith from 3/13-3/15)

This is a powerful and thought-provoking play and an excellent production.  It comes with my strong recommendation.  What better way could there be to spend a weekend evening than to chill out in Chelsea watching a performance of "Greenland."



Apollinaire Theatre Website

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