Affirmation. It can be as basic a need as water and air. Emerging playwright Katey Hoffman does the theatrical equivalent of taping a message to the bathroom mirror in her new play, Green Lake.
“I think you’re what’s right with the world” is the mantra in this coming of age story. Participating in one of the oldest rites of passage, 13 year-old Jane goes off to summer camp. Trying to come to terms with a father who abandoned her as a baby, and an indifferent mother, Jane finds solace and companionship with “Skittles”, one of the camp’s female counsellors. By play’s end, Jane not only affirms her place in the world, she realizes that she as a voice as well.
Tasked with answering the question “who am I” in a writing assignment for school, Hoffman tackles that universal question with humour and heart. And even while the playwright is careful to explain in her program notes that Green Lake is not autobiographical, the writing device as plot driver is hard to ignore as an extension of the playwright.
Indeed, there are times in Green Lake when the line between characters and playwright appear to blur. One supposes that is the true nature of memories though, where vivid realities are mixed with foggy recollections.
It is within this almost metaphysical state that Hoffman’s play is at its most beautiful. Where reality becomes distorted by need, where we choose how and what to remember; all in a desire for either self-preservation, or as a vehicle to help move on.
Much like the memories that we replay in our minds over-and-over again, perhaps with the hope of a different outcome, Green Lake does become a bit repetitive. It may be in the realization of its inevitable conclusion, but the tension deflates midpoint as Jane continues to seek out her validation.
Under Rachel Peake’s direction the metaphysical is often brilliantly realized as Jane pops in-and-out of her internal and external worlds. Nuggets of whimsy, coupled with John Webber’s pinpoint lighting design and Yvan Morissette’s evocative wooden set, help ensure the transitions are beautifully executed.
As adjuncts to Jane’s memories, Donna Soares and Michael Scholar Jr not only give full life to the characters they play, but help to seamlessly set the stage for what is about to take place. Scholar Jr is particularly good here as Jane’s father, capturing the anguish of what he felt he had to do at the time, and the reality of the young woman who shows up on his Knight Street doorstep.
Kayla Deorksen gives an ebullient performance as Skittles, the camp counsellor. There is nothing false about her positive outlook, even as we know she is at least a partial invention of Jane’s memories. There is a joy in watching Deorksen, the ultimate affirmation of a life worth living.
As Jane, Alexandra Lainfiesta embraces her character’s quest with truth and honesty. The moments with her biological father are breathtakingly real.
Giving birth to a brand new work is never easy, and to actually see it produced on stage is even more difficult. Thanks to companies like Vancouver’s Solo Collective though, that playwright’s dream has been made a reality once again.
Since 1999 the independent theatre company has produced an impressive twenty-nine other original Canadian plays. Katey Hoffman’s Green Lake makes it thirty. It is worthy of its milestone.
Green Lake by Katey Hoffman. Directed by Rachel Peake. A Solo Collective Theatre production. On stage at Performance Works on Granville Island (1218 Cartwright St, Vancouver) until November 27. Visit https://solocollective.ca for tickets and information.