When a young girl is on the brink of getting dragged into a plural marriage with an older guy, there’s probably a story to be told. And chances are, it won’t include a happy ending.
Such is the case with Gracie, a new play by celebrated Victoria playwright and University of Victoria writing instructor Joan McLeod. The story, which has its world premiere at the Belfry Theatre this month, is told from the point of view of the young girl in question. It’s both touching, and sadly familiar.
There’s lots to say about the Bountiful, B.C., religious sect, which was at the heart of a Supreme Court polygamy trial in 2016. Men from the community were accused of transporting young women to the United States to be child brides. And there’s lots been said about those American communities, which have been fictionalized in the TV series “Big Love,” documented in the series “The Mormons,” and even given the reality-show treatment in “Sister Wives.” It seems that a topic that was once taboo has become well-trodden ground.
The play’s footprint on this path, though, is small. A solo show, it covers a span of about eight years in the girlhood of the main character. The narrative is simple: innocent girl doesn’t really question her fucked up circumstances, until one too many fucked up things happen and she has to escape. The familar narrative could be applied to numerous fucked up situations that women and girls have had the misfortune of living within, and hopefully, though not necessarily, surviving.
The solo performance is capably handled by Vancouver-based Lili Beaudoin, who’s clearly honed her excited-child tone through voice-over work on such shows as “My Little Pony.” Beaudoin subtly nuances her performance as the play progresses, moving from a wide-eyed girl to a wised-up teen.
Beaudoin bounces around a sparse but evocative set (designed by Catherine Hahn and lit by Narda McCarroll), climbing mountains and tending babies with equal realism. She interacts with the other characters rather than becoming them—the spotlight remains on Gracie herself, a front-row witness of her own unfolding experience.
While the play’s topic might have posed an opportunity for additional dimensions, characters or outcomes, McLeod doesn’t bring in the range of other questions or possibilities that the situation could potentially raise—the legal fight for (or against) polygamy, the horrors of child abuse, the questions of religious freedom when pasted against a background of sexism and fundamentalism… just to name a few. Instead, we see a beautifully embroidered sampler of one character’s experience—hand-crafted with carefully chosen words, an art object in itself.
For more information on this play, CLICK HERE.
– Alisa Gordaneer