“Never Tell Maritimers The Odds”: Fire Exit Theatre’s Halo Sparks Discussion About Faith and Family

Fire Exit Theatre opens its 2014-15 season with Halo, a comedy by Josh MacDonald. Directed by Mark Lewandowski, Halo asks questions about faith, family, and miracles. While the script is weak in some areas, Fire Exit Theatre’s production of Halo proves to be an emotional piece that just misses the mark slightly.

Set in the fictional small town of Nately, Nova Scotia, Halo tells the story of Casey (Jamie Matchullis), a sarcastic, newcomer from the “big city” of Halifax. Casey works at the local Tim Hortons where she is visited regularly by her boyfriend Jansen (Jacob Lesiuk) who helps ease the pains of dealing with the town’s interesting residents. One day, the image of Jesus appears on the side of the building. The town comes to see the divine picture as a miracle. Meanwhile, Donald (Randall Wiebe) prays for his own miracle at the bedside of his youngest daughter who has been in a coma for the past three years. When his eldest daughter Lizzy (Kendra Hitchinson) comes to visit from Toronto, Donald’s faith and hope for his daughter’s recovery are put to the test.

MacDonald captures the local flavour of the Martitimes very well (particularly the obsession with Tim Hortons). The characters certainly feel small town which, as a result, makes Casey feel like that much of an outsider.

The problem with the play’s characters are that, sometimes, they feel flat. The playwright does not let the ideas of the play to develop naturally. Consequently, the characters speak argument statements as opposed to trying to reach articulate conclusions on the topics of faith and miracles.

Adding on to this, the play could benefit from significant cuts. There are scenes that run too long due to rambling dialogue. The approx. two hour run time becomes noticeable.

Where the play shines, however, is in the drama between Donald and Lizzy. To watch Donald struggle with his faith as he comes to terms that his daughter will never return to him is heart-wrenching. The storyline is underscored by Lizzy’s difficulty in connecting with her father who she sees as desperate for believing in miracles at the beginning, but comes to understand his devotion by the end of the play. MacDonald offers no answers for questions which may not have any, and this is what makes this storyline particularly effective.

Wiebe and Hitchinson are the stand out performers of the production. The final moments of the play are heart-wrenching thanks to their powerful commitment to the drama.

Matchullis does the best she can with the clunky dialogue written for Casey. She nonetheless carries the show well. Lesiuk plays for laughs with his hyperactive physicalities which do not take long to become tiring. Barrett Hileman, in the role of Father JJ, is interesting to watch as the town’s priest who is appalled at the idolatry of the divine picture.

Despite some issues with the script, Fire Exit Theatre’s production of Halo by Josh MacDonald is a moving piece that raises meaningful life questions.

Fire Exit Theatre’s production of Halo by Josh MacDonald ran at the Engineered Air Theatre (EPCOR Centre) from Oct 8-12.

For more information about the show and the company, visit: https://www.fireexit.ca/shows

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