Two Indians (playing at SummerWorks) is set in an alley, between the garbage cans and the upturned milk crates. Two cousins and childhood besties — one who stayed on the reserve, the other who left for the city — meet to observe a supermoon.
Eventually, we figure out that Win (Darla Contois) has been sent to try and persuade Roe (Yolanda Bonnell) to return to the rez, at least for a visit: grandma’s not going to live forever, people miss you, are you really happy here all by yourself? Are you whole?
There’s more: much, much more. This hour-long show packs in an awful lot of plot, and I won’t spoil the surprises. But it’s that final question, about wholeness, that runs through the play: what would it take, what does it mean, can it be attained? (Can it even be explained?)
There’s something immediately poignant, in a play about indigenous identities, to set this reunion in among the detritus of a mostly-white city. And there’s something important in the way that the cousins get to work re-arranging that mess, picking and choosing the bits that are useful to them, leaving the rest untouched.
Writer Falen Johnson and director Jessica Carmichael keep that light touch going throughout the show, packing it full of small details which will make white people gasp, but often got nods from Indigenous audience members. And the performances from Contois and Bonnell, which emphasize conversational banter between close relatives, do a huge amount to humanize and make real the script’s high-minded goals. Johnson also leavens the mood with moments of humour, personal confessions and a few solid twists.
Andy Moro’s set and lights, and — especially — Patrick Bramm’s original compositions also provide a tremendous boost to the production, making it realer and more visceral, assisting Carmichael in consistently nailing the moods and beats she’s aiming for.
As a whole production, the show’s such a rewarding entertainment that you’ll hardly notice the politics sneaking up behind you. Whatever your background, so long as you come into the room with an open mind, you’ll leave savvier, with a number of sticky points and difficult questions that’ll rattle around in your head for days afterwards.
But I should emphasize that it’s not heavy lifting, nor is this Educational Theatre That Will Improve You. You won’t come out of Two Indians feeling like you’ve eaten your vegetables. This is a fun show with heart, energy, and a vital message — especially in a culture which still tends to treat Indians as either ludicrous stereotypes or incomprehensible, dangerous provocateurs.
And whose fault is that?
Two Indians plays at the Factory Theatre Studio. (125 Bathurst St.)
- Sunday August 7th 2:15 PM
- Tuesday August 9th 8:00 PM
- Thursday August 11th 4:00 PM
- Friday August 12th 8:15 PM
- Saturday August 13th 12:00 PM
Individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Youth Series tickets are $10, Live Art Series ticket prices vary. Tickets are available online at http://summerworks.ca, by phone at 416-320-5779 and in person at the SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St). Open August 2-14 from 10am-7pm. Cash and credit accepted.
Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.
Photo provided by SummerWorks.