Halo based on true events
Where: MY (Millennium) Place
When: Tuesday, Feb. 24, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $18 - $23
Its true Canadians have always had a reverence bordering on sacramental wafer and wine territory for their coffee and doughnuts. But things went considerably further when an image said to resemble Jesus Christ appeared on the brick exterior of a Tim Hortons in the Cape Breton town of Brador in 1998.
Apparently fed up with ambrosia, the Messiah was jonesing for a cruller.
Was it a miracle, or Rorschach run amok? Either way, thousands of the devout and the curious flocked to gaze upon the wall.
The sensation seekers of the American tabloid press caught a whiff and zoomed in for the kill, giving Brador its 15 minutes in the spotlight. Eventually the pilgrims and the pilgrim-chasers heard about the next Virgin Mary taco on the streets of San Juan or what have you and filtered out, allowing things to settle back into relative normality.
Divine intervention at our national doughnut shop.
Punk band Bad Religion sings "sometimes truth is stranger than fiction."
They called it. The events were indeed strange and true, and completely irresistible for two creative Nova Scotians playwright Josh MacDonald and Ken Schwartz, director and founder of the Ross Creek, N.S.-based Two Planks and a Passion Theatre Company.
The result of their inspiration was Halo . The two-act play is set in the fictitious small town of Nedley, N.S., a sleepy anywhere-ville with a Tim Hortons that one day miraculously features a heavenly depiction on its wall.
While there are undeniable ties to the 1998 events in Brador, the play is not meant to be a docudrama, and digs deeper beneath the quirky, satirical surface to ask real questions about life, love, faith, and miracles in an age of mass culture.
Its a perfect fit for a company that puts story-telling front and centre, drawing its name from an old British theatre expression that, according to Schwartz, professes "all you need to create great theatre is two planks to stand on and the passion to do it."
A seven-member cast is currently touring Halo throughout Western Canada, and will descend into MY Place this Tuesday evening. Its the third run for the production and by the end of the tour Two Planks will have presented Halo over 100 times.
But its a complex tale that can use a retelling or two. Schwartz describes the play as "multi-layered," hesitating to deem it either a comedy or a drama though elements of each abound.
"It walks a tightrope between the two," he explains. "Like in life, in a moment of great drama something can happen thats also quite funny and the other way around."
Halo, says Schwartz, features two separate story lines weaving in and out of each other. The first involves the absurdities of such a fantastic event and its humorous effect on a tight-knit community. The second, more poignant storyline features a Christmas tree farmers vigil by the bedside of his daughter, comatose after a car accident a couple years earlier.
The result is mass-cultures faith circus held up beside a more intimate examination of what a miracle can mean.
"Its a very entertaining piece that at the same time doesnt shy away from exploring things that really matter," says Schwartz.
"The plays really concerned with how any kind of incident, even something as dignified as the image of Jesus Christ, can be turned into a quick pop bullet for Entertainment Tonight," adds MacDonald. "Its a play where the characters name-drop Jesus Christ just as easily as they can name-drop Willie Nelson and Jabba the Hut. So even though its set in the Maritimes, its really about mass culture."
And the doughnut emporium in the middle of it all, though as much a target of the playwrights satirical pen as any character, still manages to come out okay.
"It takes a couple of kicks on the shins, but also gets a couple of kisses on the cheek," says MacDonald. "The play is constantly lampooning entertainment culture, media culture and corporate culture, but the characters are often heard to say, This is really good coffee."
Two Planks and a Passion perform Halo at MY Place this Tuesday evening as part of the MY Place/Whistler Arts Councils 2003/04 Performance Season. Ticket prices range from $18 to $23. The show begins at 8 p.m. Call 604-935-8410 for information.
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