The thing about storms is that sometimes, they can roll in without any warning. That’s the case with runaway bride Rosannah DeLuce (Sienna Holden) in Cindy Lou Johnson’s Brilliant Traces.
Presented by Theatre of Consequence, Johnson’s Brilliant Traces stages a chance meeting between two lonely strangers who discover that they need each other more than they know. When her car breaks down in the middle of a blizzard, Rosannah seeks shelter in a cabin owned by Henry Harry (John McIver). Henry, wrapped in a blanket, has no time to ask questions as Rosannah, still in her wedding dress, begins to fall apart in front of him. She eventually passes out from exhaustion, as she has just driven all the way from Arizona.
After sleeping for two days, Rosannah awakes to find the storm has not yet passed. She is forced to stay with Henry in the cabin as a result.
Inside the cabin, designed by Troy Couillard, Rosannah and Henry talk about everything and nothing (like alien abductions). Rosannah fears she is indistinguishable, causing her to feel lost in the world. Henry, on the other hand, knows where he wants to be, alone. The isolation of the Alaskan wilderness is perfectly fine for Henry whose grief has caused him to retreat away from the world. He is reluctant, if not afraid, to care for someone again after experiencing loss.
Director Barrett Hileman paces the play in such a way that it doesn’t seem like the characters are waiting for their turn to speak or lay their troubles on the other person. Moments of pause and reflection punctuate Johnson’s sometimes long-winded dialogue, which helps ensure that the play’s wordy speeches are not thrown away or discarded so easily as confused, agitated speech. There is a sense of mutual need for understanding, even if the characters may not say so directly.
McIver delivers an engrossing, layered performance as Henry, a man who feels he is not worthy of love and attention. The conflict between Henry’s awakened sense of self-worth and the isolation he has committed himself to is shown to us marvelously by McIver whose facial expressions visibly process the difficulty of letting go and moving on. The actor is superb in the role of Henry.
Holden plays Rosannah with tremendous energy and discipline. She delivers her character’s speeches as if she were simultaneously challenging the universe and fearful of what it may say in response. There is vulnerability in her performance, as well as subdued anger and frustration that plays well with the stubbornness that McIver brings to Henry.
Couillard’s set is visually appealing, but the cabin seems just a bit too neat and orderly for a grieving person, especially one caught living the same painful scenario in his head again and again. Maybe Henry occupies himself by keeping a clean living space, who knows, but the cabin’s design does not convey any hint of emotional distress. Flashing lights (which run down long, plastic tubes) behind the cabin act as the stars of the northern sky, a nice visual element given that these characters help each other find their way again.
The intimacy of the Motel Theatre truly benefits Theatre of Consequence’s production of Brilliant Traces. This is an intimate piece about two people trying to make sense of where they have been, where they are now, and where they are going. The actors move and play with confidence in the space, giving a rich performance that makes the play’s ending land with impact.
This second production by Theatre of Consequence, one of Calgary’s newest theatre companies, is a great experience thanks to strong, nuanced performances and focused direction.
Theatre of Consequence’s production of Brilliant Traces by Cindy Lou Johnson ran August 24 – 27 at the Motel Theatre.