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Her luck, your taxes?

Adapted by Chris Craddock from the novel by Miriam Toews
Directed by Stephane Kirkland
Waterfront Theatre to October 2nd, 2006
shameless hussy productions

Vancouver, B.C. - When I picked up my copy of Miriam Toews's book "summer of my amazing luck" I was ready to be "[seduced by] her tenderness, astute observation, and piquant humour", as described in the back cover quote from the Toronto Star. And initially the humour and the lyrical tone of her prose aroused my interest and sympathy for both Lucy, the narrator of the story, and her rebellious friend and mentor, Lish. What I did not anticipate however, was how quickly I would become irritated by the women of the Have-a-Life, better known as Half-a-Life, housing project. The life style of single mothers on welfare is no piece of cake but does that excuse lying, promiscuity and blatant theft? Terrorizing other restaurant patrons and being verbally abusive to the manager? Where has the concept of personal responsibility gone?

Of necessity when a 200 page novel is adapted to a two hour play, the poetry of the writing to some extent is lost. But Chris Craddock's adaptation of this novel for the stage together with the deft hand of director, Stephane Kirkland and a talented, experienced cast really brings out the humour of the book. Thomas Conlin Jones has great comedic talent, playing 22 different roles including Lucy's dominating therapist mother, suspicious US and permissive Canadian customs guards, and welfare and social workers. Daune Campbell, who plays Lish, is equally funny as Lucy's withdrawn but caring father, and other characters, including a beeping Bank Machine. The cross-gendered casting of Jones as Lucy's mother, Naomi and various other women, and Campbell as Lucy's dad, heightens the zaniness of the characters.

Renee Iaci is Lucy, who gets pregnant because "she hadn't grieved properly over her mother's death". With her nine month old son Dillinger (named for guess who?), fathered by any one of nine or ten guys, Lucy moves into Half-a Life, where Lish, mother of four "fatherless" children, (OK the younger two were twins) takes her under her wing. Lucy tries to cheer Lish up by sending her postcards purporting to be from the one-night stand, thieving busker, Gotcha, who fathered the twins and took off with her wallet. This plan starts to go off the rails when Lish decides to set off to Denver to find Gotcha.

Maybe I'm getting cranky from too much exposure to plays about miserable men bemoaning their inability to form relationships, drug using drop out youths and welfare cheats. Instead of arousing my sympathy for these women bringing up kids on welfare, the book and the play just made me thoroughly irritated at the thought of my tax dollars going to support someone else's irresponsible behaviour. Our modern society seems to have become a giant "poor me, it's not my fault, someone else must pay" collective. And after all unless reproduction has taken a giant evolutionary step that I don't know about, for every "single" mother there is a father somewhere.

Theatre is supposed to provoke discussion. The play is funny, the production is good. Go and see it and see what you think.