A play of Acadian origin, Dark Owl was written in the 1970s by playwright Laval Goupil, and later translated into English by Glen Nichols. This incarnation of the play, however, is bilingual, and employs almost equal use of English and Acadian French. This production features a bilingual cast, which further lends itself to the feel and mood of the play.
The early scenes of this play are both comical and vicious. There are four adult siblings who all live at home, and the family's dysfunction is apparent from the first line. These kids rip into each other, no holds barred, and spewing profanities in both English and French. Three will gang up on one, then another and they even attack each other physically to any perceived slight, real or imagined. The father, Utrope (Gilles Plouffe), has exiled himself to his shack to get away from the fighting and the guilt, while his wife, Victorine (Liz Burns), works long hours picking maggots out of fish, and is miserable. The captivated audience laughed frequently and often, as what was going on in front of their eyes was dysfunctionally brilliant.
While arguing, the siblings spot a handsome stranger, and the sisters are fascinated by him. Eventually, hushed references to the mysterious Dark Owl are made, and nebulous hints of something terrible that had happened in the past are mentioned. The eldest sister, Flora (Holly Gauthier-Frankel) seems to feel some kind of shame with respect to the incident, and their mother goads them with comments about still living at home when they're all old enough to be married and living their own lives.
Middle sister Delcia (Léa Rondot) decides to have some fun, and prank calls the handsome stranger, Paul, on Flora's behalf. She sends him to their neighbour's house, who was the victim of the Dark Owl, as Amandine (Catherine Lemieux) giggles with glee. The baby brother, Nicholas (Dan Jeannotte) laments that they always fight when they're together, rather than enjoying each other's company as family should. Something terrible happens next door, and their internal strife is nullified as they must come to terms with the recent events they've set in motion. Father Utrope and his wife, go to survey the incident, signalling the end of Utrope's self-imposed isolation in his shack, and Victorine's ability to share her feelings about her work and life with him.
While well-acted, this was a very confusing play to watch. Some of the French dialogue was spoken extremely quickly, and in a dialect that is difficult for a non-native speaker to understand. Unfortunately, the difficult to understand 10% of the total dialogue seems to have been essential to understanding the play, because the plot was hard to follow. The rest of the French discourse was mostly profanity or randomly interjected words.
The set was very interesting; it was a bunch of wooden doors strewn across the ground, with a few chairs and a roost-like structure in the back which represented Utrope's shed. Designed by Jennifer Goodman, it was surprisingly sturdy, as the actors were quite rambunctious and it was a wonder that nobody tripped, or that nothing slipped out! Roy Denton, sound designer, put together a very nice Maritime soundtrack, which accompanied parts of the play, adding to the Acadian feel. Lighting design was done by Jody Burkgolder, and she also took care of the technical director role. Paul Brian Imperial was the stage manager, and Patricia Manessy was the assistant director. Costume designer Noémi Poulin created a nice 1970s feel with her costumes and hairstyles for the cast.
Photos by Jaclyn Turner
-Venue: 3997 St. Laurent
-Ticket Purchase: (514) 849-3378 or www.mainlinetheatre.ca/en/spectacles/dark-owl
-Ticket Prices: Adults: $20.00
4 Tickets: $68.00 (with MainLine FourPlay card)
-Show Times: Tuesdays to Saturdays, 8:00 pm
Matinées: Sundays, 2:00 pm