Slight of Mind
Runs until April 14
9801 – 101 A Ave.
Tickets: Start at $30. Call 780-425-1820 or at www.citadeltheatre.com
Theatre Yes artistic director Heather Inglis thrives in challenging the notion of what theatre can be, and she’s certainly taken audiences to a new plane with Slight of Mind.
The production focuses on flight and why we do it – the risk-taking, the ambition, the fears, the loss, the gain, the super heroics and consequences to family. It’s all jammed in a two-hour experimental package affectionately dubbed Icarus Air.
In collaboration with Edmonton-based playwright Beth Graham, also an actress with an incredibly commanding stage presence, Inglis navigates this epic sky journey in the bowels of the Citadel Theatre.
At the starting point in the departure lounge (a.k.a. the Shoctor Theatre lobby), a disembodied voice delivers witty anecdotes and instructions such as “We now invite passengers with closed minds to open them.”
From that point on, each scene is delivered separately in a great labyrinth of rooms rarely seen by the public: waiting areas, lounges, staircases, a library, entryways, a loading dock and storage areas.
Guiding the small groups of 20 passengers or so on a walking tour through this discombobulated warren are half a dozen perky flight attendants that include St. Albert’s own Hayley Moorhouse.
Graham wrote Slight of Mind using three great flying figures in history: Icarus, a mythical Greek boy who flew too close to the sun; aviator Amelia Earhart, the first female attempting to circumnavigate the planet, and Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman Russian cosmonaut.
Connecting these three disparate stories is modern-day nine-year-old Agnes whose parents work for Icarus Air. Agnes is infatuated with air travel and space, but just as it fuels her dreams, it also creates loss.
One of the first figures we encounter is the feisty Amelia Earhart besieged by reporters after a transatlantic flight. One reporter asks a typical 1930s question.
“What will you wear when you navigate around the world?”
“What one always wears – pants,” replies a visibly surprised Earhart played by Melissa Thingelstad.
Thingelstad’s Earhart is a powerful force and the actress plays Amelia with a clipped speech and spot-on body language reminding you this flyer doesn’t suffer fools easily.
Icarus’ story starts as a young boy who has flown the air currents to the greatest heights above the clouds but has turned into a broken man.
Actor Philip Gellar, dressed in a leather helmet and goggles with white feathers sticking out of his clothes, relays Icarus’ story through the beauty of poetic dialogue. It is one of the play’s most powerful moments as Gellar’s monologue lifts us to the heavens and we share Icarus’ brief euphoria.
Valentina’s story is recounted in two scenes as Chairman Nikita Khrushchev congratulates the would-be cosmonaut for her acceptance into the space program.
However, Lora Brovold’s performance really takes off as the bold Valentina orbits around Earth alone in a tiny, locked capsule surrounded by black, star-studded space.
In this great void, Brovold taps into the ambitious cosmonaut’s fears and regrets, and creates a woman with vulnerabilities that truly touch.
One of the most interesting aspects of this experimental production is two scenes taking place outside the theatre with passengers watching through windows.
Slight of Mind is full of fresh discoveries. Some will make you chuckle. Others will make you shiver. If you’re open to seeing new flights of fancy, Slight of Mind is on until April 14. Just leave the stilettos at home and wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes.