At the Arts Club Revue Stage until Nov. 3
If the power went out—and stayed out—how long do you think it would take before things got ugly? Not long, as imagined by playwright Yvette Nolan in The Unplugging. It would begin with hoarding, then looting and would escalate to violence. Small communities would form, leaders would emerge and as supplies began to run out, the old and the useless would be banished. Ironically, it might be the elders—some of whom would remember how to snare rabbits, catch fish and hunt, butcher and preserve game—who might have been able to save the rest.
Elena (Margo Kane) is old; Bernadette (Jenn Griffin) is younger but has been a party girl. Elena has learned survival skills from her First Nations father and her grandmother; Bernadette is without skills but she’s got determination.
We meet them trudging through a frozen landscape—a bleak, leafless forest of birches created by Drew Facey. Screens move back and forth, sometimes revealing wind torn evergreens straight out of a Group of Seven painting. Jeff Harrison plays light through this set with painterly skill. Sound designer Alison Jenkins opens with a sorrowing wind through the trees and adds the sound of keening women.
The Unplugging is ably directed by Lois Anderson who carefully balances the script’s light and dark scenes. Kane brings a Mother Of Us All earthiness to the play while Griffin shows the impulsive yet practical side of Bernadette. Anton Lipovetsky, arriving halfway through the play, is so fresh, so guileless that it’s no wonder The Unplugging reaches a slightly hope-filled conclusion.
This is a very satisfying first production that, given subsequent mountings, would improve with some tighter focus. There’s a lot happening in The Unplugging.