Raven Interpretation Soars, Delights

By Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

Toronto Star, Thursday October 11, 2007

Raven Interpretation Soars, DelightIt’s always tricky when you pit the fables of another culture onto the stage. Do it too faithfully to the traditions of the original and you risk looking stilted; fool around with it too much and you take the chance of seeming disrespectful.

That’s why it’s nice to report that Raven Stole the Sun, which opened Tuesday afternoon at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, manages to fall into neither trap.

The original story is a traditional one of the Tlingit Nation, as recounted by Sháa Tláa Maria Williams. But it’s been nicely transformed here by Drew Hayden Taylor, who has been able to combine a sincere respect for indigenous culture with his own original take.

The basic take is a simple one. An old man named Eesh was so depressed by his wife’s death that he took the sun, moon and stars away, hiding them in three boxes in his house.

Consequently, his daughter Seik is obliged (along with everyone else) to live in darkness and only wonder what the beauty of the world is really like.

Everything changes when a Raven comes along, the Trickster of this tale, who is curious about what the three boxes in Eesh’s longhouse.

In a fast-paced 50 minutes, we go through a whole series of emotions and narrative twists and come out the other end with a nice complete experience intact.

Taylor’s script has just the right tone, finding contemporary equivalents for the Trickster Raven that strike a plausible tone and don’t stretch the envelope too much.

Sandra Laronde (whose Red Sky Performance presents the show) doubles as director and Seik. As an actress, she has a wonderfully real and soothing presence; as a stager, she knows how to be inventive without getting overly glitzy.

There’s attractive scenery and costumes by Cheryl Lalonde, apt lighting from Steve Lucas and wonderfully haunting music composed by Donald Quan.

The other two cast members complete the picture, with Carlos Rivera bringing a nicely wounded sense of gravitas to Eesh and Michael Dufays being beguilingly inventive as the Raven.

The young audience paid strict attention as dance, lighting, words, music and costumes all came together in a carefully orchestrated mix.

And by the way, the whole tale begins with Raven being white. He only turns black at the end.

How does it happen? Get down to the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People and find out.

Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

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