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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Theatre review: Reborning is an intense ride

Thriller broaches the territory of grief and trauma to shine a light on the personal stories of women who struggle with painful pasts

Reality Curve Theatre’s production of Zayd Dohrn’s provocative thriller, Reborning, is an intense ride that escalates into complex traumatic territory.

Reborning, directed and performed by Lori Triolo, is based around a real line of dolls. Reborn dolls are life-like infants often created for therapeutic reasons, such as for women who are struggling to conceive, or have lost a child. Disturbingly realistic, these dolls undoubtedly present some serious concerns, begging the question, is this a healthy way to recover from a tragic loss?

Kelly, played by Emily Bett Rickards, is a ‘reborner’, an artist who creates these dolls. Living with her boyfriend, Daizy (Paul Piaskowski), her life seems dysfunctional, but strangely relatable.

When Kelly takes on new client Emily, performed by Triolo, things begin to fall apart. Emily brings Kelly into the world of her deceased infant, Eva, and continues to request that the doll look closer to the real child. As Kelly gets wrapped up in Eva’s story, we see her unravel as we come to learn about her own past.

From here, things escalate to an emotional level that seems over the top. Kelly’s past is extreme, and the drama that follows requires a deft hand to provide depth and clarity. Perhaps it is a script that goes too far over the rails, or maybe more care is required to ensure the drama that unfolds is more realistic.

Rickards does a phenomenal job carrying this show. Her nuanced portrayal of Kelly feels approachable and charismatic, yet sarcastic. She lets us see a wide spectrum of the character – both the light and dark – helping to make the dramatic ending feel a little less unbelievable.

Piaskowski and Triolo are also strong performers, and keep the energy moving throughout. While the focus is on Kelly’s emotional journey, we are invited into both Daizy and Emily’s pasts to see that they are all, in fact, broken.

Lori Triolo as Emily in Zayd Dohrn’s provocative thriller, Reborning. Photo by Lachlan McAdam.
Lori Triolo as Emily in Zayd Dohrn’s provocative thriller, Reborning. Photo by Lachlan McAdam.

The set, created by Stephanie Wong and Alex Kirkpatrick is perfectly detailed. We are brought into Kelly’s doll maker studio and apartment in New York. The transformation to reveal a scene outside the apartment is cleverly thought out.

Reborning is made all the more real by the fact that these dolls actually exist and are used by many people for many reasons. Some use them as a form of therapy for people with Alzheimer’s, mental illness, or as a way of dealing with grief.

This sensitive topic is dark and feels uncomfortable on many levels, but exiting the theatre you can’t help but think that this story, while wildly dramatic, may not be that far from some realities.

Reborning by Zayd Dohrn. Directed by Lori Triolo. A Reality Curve Theatre production. On stage at The Annex (823 Seymour St, Vancouver) until June 29. Visit for tickets and information.

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