Review: Wajdi Mouawad's Forests at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre

Review: Tarragon Theatre Presents Wajdi Mouawad's Forests
Continues to May 29, 2011.

Whether you enjoy Wajdi Mouawad's Forests will likely depend on your taste for wordy, symbol and idea heavy plays - the words nearly always trump the actions of the cast in this labyrinthine drama.

I do enjoy letting myself be seduced by the evocative magic of words, so it didn't bother me in particular that 16 year old Loup (Vivien Endicott-Douglas in a convincing performance) was one minute every inch the snarly, foul-mouthed teenager one moment and then earnestly and poetically venting her anguish the next. Every characters - and there were many - had such moments of poetry and vulgarity, just as the play itself veers from mythology to gritty realism and back again. It's nearly three hours of twists and turns sprinkled with odd and horrific details that saves its biggest punch for the very end.

At the heart of the story is a promise Loup made to her dying mother and the mysterious circumstances of her fatal illness, a pledge that leads her to look for answers back through a fractured family tree. What she finds doesn't reassure - a string of familial abuse and dysfunction, each generation left to fend for itself and then passing on the legacy of abandonment to the next generation.

That story is fleshed out over several characters, six generations and two continents, punctuated by real events in the form of the Second World War and Québec not so ancient history (I won't spoil the revelation). Every actor has a chance to shine as the spotlight moves around and the story unfolds. While the talented cast does manage to breathe soul and life into the characters, it is the words themselves that shape the story in the end as the mystery of Loup's origins are finally revealed.

Vivien Endicott-Douglas is solid as the heart of a piece where ideas tend to dominate even as it looks at the nature of emotional ties, right up to Loup's powerful and touching speech at the very end.

by Wajdi Mouawad
translated by Linda Gaboriau
Director: Richard Rose
Starring: Dmitry Chepovetsky, Matthew Edison, Vivien Endicott-Douglas, David Fox, Sophie Goulet, Brandon McGibbon, Alon Nashman, Liisa Repo-Martell, Jan Alexandra Smith, RH Thomson, Terry Tweed