The Lasting Effect Of The Arts Club's Scar TissueThursday, April 12, 2012
Theatre can be entertaining and fun. It can challenge and like the original ancient Greek intention serve as a catharsis. The folks at the Arts Club Theatre Company like to serve their theatre much like that and in some cases even offer the kind of stuff that makes you relish the cleansing that violence can work on you (Straw Dogs fashion) as they did back in March in Morris Panych’s Gordon. The nailing of a hand on to a kitchen table left me spent with the relief of being alive and that my problems were all minor.
But the Arts Club Theatre Company will not rest nor allow us theatre goers to rest and come up for air either. In April 1011 Nicola Lipman, in a brilliant monologue, took us through Another Home Invasion into the horrific territory of having to deal with a spouse’s degeneration into Alzheimer’s disease. During the play my wife Rosemary whispered into my ear, “This is much too realistic to bear.”
Before my spirited grandmother Lolita went to Cairo in the mid 60s to visit my Uncle Tony she had become forgetful. We thought it was funny. My abuelita dispatched me to homeopathic pharmacies to purchase glutamic acid which was said to help in curtailing memory loss. When she came back to our home in Veracruz, Mexico she looked at me and I knew she was not there. Every day, she prepared to go to bed for the night by taking her shower and putting on her nightgown, earlier and earlier. Bedtime soon became two in the afternoon. Eventually my mother could not handle her and we put her in a special institution run by Roman Catholic nuns. One day we received a call that she had died. Before that event I had taken my new wife Rosemary to visit her in the hopes that my abuelita would somehow recognize my new love. That never happened. Rosemary and I were affected by it, but particularly Rosemary who has often told me how her grandmother once threw out of her bed the man she said was a stranger. Rosemary’s grandfather was never able to return.
Rosemary and I are serious gardeners and we often remark to our friends that our memory for the correct name of our plants fades during winter but comes back in the spring. I argue with Rosemary that we forget because we don’t see the plants nor mention their names for several months. Come May we can note the progress of Hosta ‘Tokudama Flavo Circinalis’ or comment that our Corylopsis passiflora’s little yellow flowers (that emerge before the leaves) are quite fragrant. But we do not deny that our memory is deteriorating.
We know that we could go for tests to determine if we are headed into nature’s oblivion. But we try the technique that if you ignore it, it will go away.
With my friend, architect Abraham Rogatnick, who died a couple of years ago I used to discuss the fact that neither of us seemed to fear the idea of death. We both were moving into the idea that after death nothing much would happen. It was Rogatnick who remarked that the oblivion before birth, birth until some sort of self-awareness materialized at age four or five was nicely symmetrical with the oblivion, through gradual memory loss and self-awareness of old age sped up along the way by Alzheimer’s. It was indeed symmetrical and it almost seemed right until you considered how this affected those loved ones surrounding the affected person.
While I am not yet sure that Alzheimer's is affecting me I cannot recall that our almost liberal prime minister, Michael Ignatieff’s novel (autobiographical I was soon to find out) Scar Tissue was short listed for the Man Booker prize in 1993.
Vancouver’s Dennis Foon adapted the novel into the play, Scar Tissue (directed by Craig Hall) that Rosemary and I went to see on the opening performance on Wednesday, April 11 at the Art Club’s Revue Stage on Granville Island.
This brutal play (hands need not be nailed on to a kitchen table to be so) has a cast that is terrific, Craig Erickson (the sensitive son David), Kelk C.D. Jeffrey (the nerdish matter-a-fact son Jack) Megan Leitch as Craig Erickson’s wife, Anna, Tom McBeath as the sons’ father, Alex, Haig Sutherland as Leitch and Erickson’s young son Nick, and of course Gabrielle Rose as Mary, Alex’s wife who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.
For me the only competition to Gabrielle Rose’s believable performance is the cool one by Kelk C.D. Jeffery. He is so removed, so objective to be almost scary. And more so when the plays dramaturg, Rachel Ditor, asked me, after the performance, which of the sons was the one based on Ignatieff. I guessed correctly that it was indeed Jack.
I wonder if Ignatieff, as Prime Minister could possibly have been scarier than our present one!
This is the sort of play that propels me to the idea that if I am to serve my family as best as I can I should make sure that if I am to go the path of slow oblivion that I make it as easy as possible for them. If that is the case then we can add one more quality to the Arts Club’s service to Vancouver, and that is usefulness.