Review: Bone Cage

Banks' play shows poetry in despair.

click to enlarge Review: Bone Cage
Samm Fisher
Jessy Matthews and Sebastien Labelle in Bone Cage.
Catherine Banks’s Governor General’s award-winning play Bone Cage is brought back to the Halifax stage by the intrepid Matchstick Theatre, and on the play's tenth anniversary, no less. The story has its characters in rural Nova Scotia, a down-and-out bunch of young men and women, whose work is clearcutting the forest and mourning its wounds. Jamie (Taylor Olson) is marrying Krista (Katie Dorian) but has his sights set on other places, and probably other women. Chicky (Jessy Matthews) is Jamie’s half-sister who is equally restless and unhappy with her lot, but feels the need to stick around to take care of Jamie and his father Clarence (Sebastien Labelle), a man utterly broken by the death of his son.

Chicky is the voice of reason in the play, seeming more aware of her environment than the rest. Matthews’ portrayal is understated, but runs deep. Chicky is tough, smart, but ultimately detached, her voice rarely above a rational, controlled tone. But she will survive it all, if not thrive in some small way. She is the tiny hope in the play.

Her emotional counterpoint is Clarence, whose only lifeline is a dangerous delusion that his dead son can be cloned and resurrected. Where no hope can be found, Clarence invents it. The character is so tragic, and portrayed by Labelle as a man whose every action is coloured by his uncontainable grief.

The world portrayed in Bone Cage is a bleak one, and the material is rich and complex, if not a little unfocused, with so many characters' emotional arcs demanding attention. But strong direction and powerful performances take the poetry of despair and make it sing.

Bone Cage
Written by Catherine Banks
Directed by Jake Planinc
Presented by Matchstick Theatre
The Bus Stop Theatre
2203 Gottingen St.
October 5-15