MARCH 2023 | Volume 225
Our Ghosts production image. Lucy McNulty, Sebastien Archivald and Corina Akeson. Photo credit Nico Dicecco.
Sally Stubbs’ terrific new play, Our Ghosts, is a mystery, a ghost story and an elegy.Based on the true story of Stubbs’ pilot father’s mysterious disappearance in 1956 while flying a T-33 fighter jet over the BC coast, and its effects on her and her family,the Firehall premiere featuresstrong direction by Sarah Rodgers and beautiful performances across its entire ensemble cast.
The character Kate (Corina Akeson) stands in for the playwright, and occupies the centre of the story along with her mother, Moira, played as a younger woman by Lucy McNulty, and as a 90-year-old in an especially fierce performance by Barbara Pollard. Caring for her mother at the end of her life, Kate conjures the younger characters, including herself and brother Stevie (Sebastien Archibald). The women’s interactions with various Canadian military personnel and search-and-rescue guides, all played by Raugi Yu, trace the story of the plane’s disappearance and its ramifications over the next sixty years until just after Moira’s death.
We get only glimpses of Vic, the pilot (Archibald again). Driving the story is Moira’s stubborn insistence that her husband remains alive, and her anger at the equivocations and bureaucratic bullshit she gets from the military and the government. Little by little, over the years, clues appear as to the reality of the event. Moira never stops searching for the truth, sometimes at her children’s expense.
The plot unreels in bits and pieces, flashbacks and brief memory scenes. In furious sleepwalking sequences the older Moira insists that she sees and speaks with her husband. He appears in various guises to other characters, too. The ghosts who pluralize the play’s title also include Stevie, whose drug death may be traced back to his father’s disappearance.
The marvelous acting is supported by a very strong design palette: Jessica Oostergo’s set of white parachute silk that also conjures shrouds and ghosts, John Webber’s subtly shifting lighting, Evan Rein’s multiple sound effects, never overdone.I do think some of director Rodgers’ effects would be better omitted: the stylized movement, miming of props, and especially the numerous small shifts of three risers that require stopping the action while people lock and unlock them and move them a few feet. The script and acting are so strong that less in this case would definitely be more.
get in touch with vancouverplays:
Vancouver's arts and culture website providing theatre news, previews and reviews