by Darrell Dennis
Firehall Arts Centre
March 2-12
Tickets $14 - $22

Darrell Dennis claims that his one-man show is “semi-autobiographical.” Even if only half of what he describes and enacts in Tales of an Urban Indian actually happened to him, this is a guy to be admired—not just for his talents as writer and performer, but for surviving his own life in such evident good shape.

The story he tells is straightforward and linear, from his birth on a Shuswap reserve in the BC interior to his growing up partly in Vancouver and partly on the reserve, to his return to the city where, as a teenager, he comes of age on East Hastings in a blur of alcohol and cocaine. Along the way he chronicles the deaths of friends and acquaintances by the simple, eloquent act of lifting stones out of a bucket and arranging them on the downstage centre floor.

But despite the harshness of much of his life, the play is essentially a comedy. A veteran of Second City, Dennis is a very funny man. He’s an equal opportunity satirist, poking fun at whites and aboriginals alike, mostly via quickly sketched caricatures. Some, like his grandmother with her all-purpose fly-swatter and his best friend on the reserve, a compulsive eater, he portrays with deep affection. When observing whites, he’s like an aboriginal anthropologist reporting on a strange tribe. But there too he is always funny and sometimes hilarious, as when God speaks to him in his drunken despair in the voice and manner of Jackie Mason.

Trying to pass as white in the city, the charmingly self-deprecating Dennis describes himself as “living a double life, like Grey Owl, only in reverse.” That life nearly killed him. But with the good fortune of a helpful girlfriend and his own strength of character, he managed to pull himself back from the brink just in time, get it together to become a successful writer and actor, and put his story on the stage. His good fortune is ours as well.

Jerry Wasserman


last updated: Thursday, March 10, 2005 5:11 PM
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