I don’t know that I have ever been more excited and more terrified about a project at the same time. Re:Union is a new play by Vancouver playwright Sean Devine in a co-production by Pacific Theatre and Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre. It is a timely piece about the place of political activism that uses the 1965 self-immolation of Norman Morrison as a Vietnam War protest as a starting point. The play constantly asks, “What are the consequences of action? What are the consequences of inaction?”
In addition to being a highly political piece, it is also a highly technical piece. The grid of Pacific Theatre is the fullest I have ever seen it – the most lights I’ve seen in that space, extra speakers, plus four projectors, three robotic video cameras and one stationary camera. The show has 428 called cues (probably around 900 cues if you were to include all the autofollows in the programming) and I’ve had two nightmares this week alone about cueing the show (one involved someone adding extra cues to an already tech heavy sequence without telling me, the second involved not knowing where any cues went). However, the tech all works together in a way I rarely experience in theatre – one technician friend of mine commented that “it’s like the designers actually talked to each other and worked together” and it’s true – they did!
Add to all of that three wonderfully talented actors and a fantastic director and the show feels like one of those unique perfect storms – where every element is working together to create an excellent, cohesive, whole.
And folks are noticing. The reviews coming in have been excellent. Here’s just a taste of what’s being said about the show:
“A lot of theatre wants to make you think, but it’s an all-too-rare experience in Vancouver that after the curtain falls, you race home to research more about a play’s subject matter. That night, reading about Vietnam and the arguments made about its echoes in Iraq, it struck me that Devine’s Re:Union lays a claim that wars and plays struggle to achieve: mission accomplished.” – Andrea Warner, The WestEnder
“These are three gripping performances that guide us through the intellectual and philosophical deep waters of this play. Co-produced by Horseshoes and Hand Grenades and Pacific Theatre, Re:Union fulfills the mandate of both companies—to produce tough, compelling, thought-provoking theatre.” – Jo Ledingham, Vancouver Courier
“Re:Union provides a thorough moral and intellectual workout, which makes it as unusual as it is welcome in Vancouver’s current theatre scene. And the physical production is gorgeous….California-based director John Langs delivers an exquisite production. Set designer John Webber places elegant, futuristic panels along one long wall of Pacific Theatre’s awkward space, and projection designer Jason H. Thompson throws compelling images onto those surfaces, including the chaos of the conflict in Vietnam, homely details of the Morrisons’ family life, and live-action footage that Emily, an artist, is recording. Often Noah Drew’s sound design evokes the ominous shifting of bureaucratic gears.” - Colin Thomas, Georgia Straight
“Re:Union asks a series of fascinating questions about guilt and responsibility, the need to take action against the unconscionable and the prices to be paid for inaction and for inappropriate action. John Langs’ stylish Pacific Theatre/Horseshoes & Hand Grenades co-production fills the tiny 12th Avenue theatre space with very strong acting and some of the most impressive lighting (John Webber), sound (Noah Drew) and projection effects (Jason H. Thompson) ever seen there.” – Jerry Wasserman, The Province
“the assemblage of actors are of the highest quality, delivering pitch perfect performances. Evan Frayne’s Norman Morrison is a warm, instantly likeable man, whose grappling transformation from reaching uncertainty to grim resolution is stunning to behold. Alexa Devine’s Emily Morrison crackles with fanaticism through the first act, a facade that is chipped away in the second to reveal tenderness, vulnerability, and need. Andrew Wheeler absolutely nails the taciturn, systematic McNamara, bringing humanizing elements of humour, self-doubt, and regret to the role.” – Brian Paterson, Laura Murray PR
“The staging is remarkable. A talented team of sound and set designers are behind this production, including Stage Manager Lois Dawson, Production Manager Frank Nickel, and Technical DirectorJessica Howell. It’s brilliantly executed over the course of two hours (with a 15 minute intermission). Elements are worked down to the finest detail, from video footage to lighting techniques to sound.” – Ariane C, Ariane C Design
“The performers were all very strong–their work adds up to three subtle portraits in self-doubt. In addition to a demanding, wordy script, they had the challenges of interacting with a lot of on-stage technology. This is by far the most technically sophisticated show I’ve seen at Pacific Theatre. There were projections on multiple surfaces that displayed archival footage, set decoration and feeds from on-stage cameras.” – Darren Barefoot, www.darrenbarefoot.com
“A compelling exploration of a small piece of American history within its larger context, Devine proves himself a playwright to watch. Not since Peter Morgan’s Frost/Nixon have I found American politics so interestingly portrayed on stage.” – Mark Robins, GayVancouver.net
Re:Union runs through November 12, with performances at 8pm Wednesday – Saturday plus 2pm matinees on Saturday. For tickets, visit PacificTheatre.org or call 604.731.5518.