Review: The Rez Sisters (Factory Theatre)

The Rez Sisters at Factory Theatre in Toronto

The Rez Sisters is another one of those iconic Canadian plays that I hadn’t seen until last night. It was first produced in Toronto 25 years ago and hasn’t been produced here since apparently because of casting issues. Should the cast all be native actors or is it alright to have a cast that includes non-native performers.

Director Ken Gass has cast both in this production.

The play is about 7 women living on a fictional reserve. Bingo is their passion and they are determined to go to Toronto to the world’s biggest bingo game.

The play has two acts and in a way it felt as if it were 2 different plays. The first act is lighter, funny but my play companion – and fellow Mooney on Theatre writer – Lucy and I both felt that at times it was almost caricature. Somehow the characters lacked depth, they felt two-dimensional. I just didn’t feel any connection to them. The first act felt like a 70s TV sit-com, loud and frenetic with name-calling.

There were two characters who felt real, Zhaboonigan Peterson and Maria-Adele Starblanket.

It wasn’t until the second act that the other characters came alive for me and I started caring about the women and stopped thinking of them as characters. We learned about their stories, their hopes and fears, and why they wanted to win the bingo pot. Not that the stories are particularly unique – maybe they were 25 years ago.

Lucy wasn’t engaged at all in the first act. She thought the play felt dated.

For me I think that I had high expectations of the play and that it didn’t deliver.

Details:

The Rez Sisters is playing at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street) until December 11
– Shows are Tuesday through Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 2.pm
– Tickets prices are $35.00 for evening performances and $30.00 for the matinee
– Tickets are available at the box office, by phone (416) 504-9971, and online

Photo: (L to R) Billy Merasty, Cara Gee, Jani Lauzon, Kyra Harper, Djennie Laguerre, Pamela Sinha, Michaela Washburn & Jean Yoon in Tomson Highway’s The Rez Sisters at Factory Theatre, November 5 – December 11, 2011. Photo by Jeremy Mimnagh.

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