My history book says that the first European to set eyes on the Greenland ice cap was Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen in l889. He designed a ship strong and flexible enough to bend under the pressure of moving ice. His revolutionary contribution to scientific exploration is the concept of drifting with the ice instead of trying to break it apart and resist its flow.
Metaphors of ice and water figure starkly in Canadian Nicolas Billon’s enigmatic play, GREENLAND (at Apollinaire Theater Company through March 15th). Director Meg Taintor’s austere production utilizes three separate actors to tell three distinct—and yet connected—stories about people who fail to communicate, either with nature or with each other. There’s the restless young girl (Charlotte Kinder) whose twin has drowned, leaving her “at sea” wherever she turns. There’s an explorer (Dale J. Young) with frostbite, haunted by waking dreams, whose wife (Christine Power) finds him cold as ice. (Ironically, it’s Power whose story has fire.)
The actors hardly move from their triangulated positions, as if it’s all frozen in place. Billon doesn’t give up his secrets easily so I was drawn to the scenery for meaning: Hanging over the actors is Mattheus Fiuza’s gorgeous sculptural frieze which seemed to undulate like waves of icy water. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, as it shimmered in pale blues and greens.
The “sculpture” isn’t at all what it seems to be. It’s not one solid piece, but three or four singular gauzy layers with scalloped edges which “float” in space in front of each other and come to three dimensional life under Danielle Fauteux Jacques’ ingenious lighting. The shapes change as the air in the theater catches them—just like the icecap transforms itself in warming temperatures, leaving its solid form to liquefy into water which will then submerge our land masses, they predict, in record time. Apollinaire is offering several talkbacks on the vital subject of global warming. The next one will be Friday, the 13th.