This week I saw Reservations, a play written by Steven Ratzlaff and performed at The Rachel Browne Theatre. The play had a two hour run time, but was divided into two smaller plays. As someone who doesn’t frequent the theatre, I’m not an authority on what constitutes a good or bad play, but I had mixed feelings about it.
The first play was about a father giving away the majority of his children’s land inheritance back to the Siksika people, to the dismay of his daughter, an aging actress from Toronto. The second play was about a foster parents voicing their concerns about whether or not their three foster children, indigenous siblings, should bother going for visits to their home reserve.
The title of the play seemed fitting to me, given the doubts some of the caucasian characters had about the steps being taken towards reconciliation concerning indigenous issues. It also seemed to me that the play was meant to start conversations about racial tensions in Canada. In that respect, I feel that it succeeded.
I enjoyed that the play highlighted both sides of the issues in a way where I could understand the character’s motivations and sympathize with them to an extent. I felt conflicted about what the morally “right” solution was in the story, and I think that’s the point.
As a piece of entertainment, the play could use improvement in a lot of areas. A large portion of the second play was taken up by a university lecture on philosophy of human displacement. It was interesting how the scene staged the audience as the lecture theatre students, but that was the only positive thing I can say about the scene overall.
This was the turning point in the play for me. The beginning had grasped my attention with the contention between indigenous issues and settler perspectives, but the philosophical lecture seemed like an indulgence on the part of the playwright–who portrayed both of the play’s male roles. I got the vibe that the playwright wanted to show off his intelligent, but the dense, inaccessible philosophy made my eyes glaze over.
The playwright was a part of a talkback session after the performance. His lack of meaningful answers to the audience’s questions left a bad aftertaste for me.
Negatives aside, the visuals for the play were gorgeous. Projection screens changed the scenes smoothly between from fields of wheat, wallpapers interior rooms, and even an airy lecture theatre.
I wouldn’t recommend the play, but I appreciate the conversations that the play has the potential to start. Indigenous issues are something I discuss at home frequently, but people without that experience would find the play fascinating and eye-opening.