It’s been a few days now, and aside from finding new and creative ways to put off writing my last couple of SummerWorks reviews, I’ve been thinking about Greenland, and trying to come up with reasons why it’s such an amazingly spectacular show. Certainly, along with Melancholy Play, it’s the best show of the festival, at least out of the ones I saw.
Really, it’s all about the characters.
Jonathan (Andrew Musselman) is one of the world’s leading glaciologists (yeah it’s a real thing, look it up). He’s discovered an island off the coast of Greenland, previously unknown because it was covered by a glacier. He relates his story of being interviewed about his discovery. He talks about his father, about getting his Dad ice for his belts of rye when he was small. He talks a little about his own family, particularly his wife Judith. It’s all quite interesting and funny and just a bit sad.
Judith (Clair Calnan) is Jonathan’s wife. She’s an actor, and desperately wants a kid by Jonathan. She talks about feeling like her ovaries are drying up. How she and her husband are not really a good match, that they don’t really understand each other’s occupations. And she talks about her sister an brother-in-law, and how they were killed in an accident, when a piece broke off a bridge and crushed their car while they were in it, orphaning their two teenage kids. About her and Jonathan taking them both in. And she smokes like a chimney while doing it. It’s really sad, rather sexy, and compelling as hell.
Tanya (Jajube Mandiela) is their niece and adopted daughter. She’s doing a school report on Greenland. She talks about her twin brother, about dealing with death, about living with Jonathan and Judith, and makes up a fable on the spot for Jonathan’s newly-discovered island. It’s REALLY sad, but also inspiring and stunning.
And that’s all there is to it, really. The three of them come up, one at a time, with a spotlight on each, and they tell their stories. They don’t interact with each other on stage, they don’t speak to each other. The story comes out through their respective soliloquies, and it paints a complex, sad family picture.
It’s just a terrific piece of work, and all three actors in it are wonderful. The details of their stories is fantastic and the performances so nuanced that’s it was impossible not to be completely drawn in.
The show was an hour long, but flew by.
If you see that there’s a production of this show upcoming, see it, especially if this cast is reprising their roles. Hopefully it’ll be in a bigger space, since the 55-seat Passe Muraille Backspace couldn’t accommodate everyone who wanted to see it (I felt bad, some people waited in line for an hour and still didn’t get in, while I had advance tickets).