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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) Innocence Lost

Jenny Young, Pippa Leslie and Joan Wiecha (photo credit:

Scales of Injustice
by Jim Murchison

The first thing I noticed about James Lavoie's set design when I stepped into the theatre were the long horizontal strips upstage that created a feeling that this little community in Clinton, Ontario was behind a closed venetian blind connected from the sky and pulled tightly to the horizon shielding it from the rest of the world. On a slightly raised platform downstage right, is a large tapered pole that could be a telephone pole at the boundary of a road, stylized just enough to be a symbol of the cross in a small Christian community. Stage left is an upstage platform with windows rising high on an upstage wall. A door takes you into a courtroom gallery, church or the Truscott home as the action dictates.

Patrick Andrew Boivin and George Allister's video design starts with home movies, with the cast gathered around watching the innocent fun of picnics, swims and bicycle rides, often using the actors themselves in the footage. Luc Prairie's lighting design, and original music and sound by Keith Thomas complete the technical artistic vision that is so rarely this symbiotic in support of the action.

It is more a commentary on the need for vigilant examination of authority and power than a diatribe against any group or person in particular.

The cast is consistently strong. The play primarily focuses on Sarah's conflict at coming to grips with how this horrible thing could happen in her little town. Played by Jenny Young, she grows from fourteen year old to a woman with a son of her own. She very effectively gives us a perspective on the struggle that a community and a nation  had coming to terms with the possibility of how a great miscarriage of justice could possibly occur here. 

Fiona Reid plays the myopic woman from the base and the cause championing Isabel LeBourdais and several characters in between with clarity and just the right tone. Allan Morgan plays various authority figures in the story, but also has a chance to be very moving as Lynne Harper's father and quite hilarious as a stoner at a party.

Trevor Barrette is Steven Truscott and also Sarah's son. He has an exuberant charm and a broad open smile that makes the audience instantly empathize with his plight a little later as he stands alone, confused and in disbelief. There is no difference in the way he plays Sarah's son. This is not a criticism. It is imperative that Sarah see Steven in her own child to comprehend her own feelings with resolution.

Beverley Cooper has crafted a play that has a great respect for the feelings of this community and the families of Truscott and Harper. It is more a commentary on the need for vigilant examination of authority and power than a diatribe against any group or person in particular. By focusing on the reactions and impact on the community itself, she has provided thought-provoking and entertaining theatre that never resorts to being preachy or high handed.

The marriage of director and author's vision is seldom as perfect as it is here between Roy Surette's and Cooper's. The blend of elements in a mixed media presentation is so often improperly weighted that it was a real pleasure to experience video and sound used so effectively to support performances with keen focus, finely performed. One sensed that everyone had complete trust in each other.

The audience reaction was very interesting this night as it mirrored the play's action. It started out polite and respectful and I think the cast thought they would not need to come out again, but the audience was not going to let them go. When the cast returned to the swelled applause seeing most of the house on their feet in recognition of the entire company, they may have been a little taken aback. Like a fine meal you take a little time to digest it, before saying, "God that was good!"

runtime: approximately 2 hours 15 minutes with one intermission
Innocence Lost runs until March 16

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