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Tripping down memory lane with Leaves of the Virgin Mary 

A psychedelic smoke-up and amazing choreography propel this movement/theatre piece

A young woman stands alone in the spotlight. She is dressed in white—a slim, pale, ghostly figure. The light undulates across her face, no longer a stationary spotlight, but a flickering candle flame.

This is the opening of Leaves of the Virgin Mary, a hypnotizing one-act piece of dynamic theatre, that incorporates stylized movement and poetic language to tell a story of love and loss.

The story is not, in itself, remarkable. A child named Jo (played by Margaret Legere, who also wrote the piece) is whisked away from her father and the life she knows when her parents’ marriage breaks down. As a result, in later life she finds it difficult to form and sustain relationships. Eventually, though, she falls head over heels in love—until the death of her beloved mother causes her to retreat from her lover and seek healing.

What makes Leaves intriguing and arresting is that this simple story is revealed in a non-linear way through a kind of trip down the rabbit hole: Jo’s exploration is propelled by a psychoactive plant called salvia divinorum. Jo is guided along her psychedelic visit to the past by two “entities” (played by Stephanie MacDonald and James MacLean) who are physically connected to her by lengths of pure white fabric. They tug and cajole her and interact with her in the guise of important people from her life.

The fabric is used to create an intricate and bewitching dance (masterfully choreographed by Veronique MacKenzie). It creates a current that pulls Jo into her story. Sometimes it is a stormy sea filled with dangerous eddies. Other times it is a blanket that swaddles and comforts her.

Jo’s story is told through the repetition of a series of words and thought-fragments that gradually unfold into flashbacks of pivotal moments. The repetition doesn’t grow tiresome, because the actors vary the tone and emotion of the delivery with each interaction. It’s an artful way to highlight how memory is not fact, but merely impression that is subject to change.

Leaves of the Virgin Mary is a lovely and unique theatre experience—a window into a heartsick soul.

Leaves of the Virgin Mary
To Sunday, October 18, 8pm
Saturday, October 17-Sunday, October 18, 2pm
The Bus Stop Theatre, 2203 Gottingen Street
$15/20 (Saturday evening pwyc for Nocturne)

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