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It Is Solved By Walking a heady blend of poetry, passion, invention


It Is Solved By Walking a heady blend of poetry, passion, invention

The Chronicle Herald | Elissa Barnard

It Is Solved By Walking, the 2012 Governor General’s award-winning play by Nova Scotia playwright Catherine Banks, is a rich sensory and intellectual experience.
The 90-minute play, steeped in poetry and a woman’s life, is theatre as literature. It is non-linear, poetic, beautiful, intriguing and brave.
While its perfect literary structure is polished like a beach stone, the female emotions and desires Banks explores are raw and painful.
Margaret, played by Newfoundland award-winning actress Ruth Lawrence, is a 53-year-old woman who intended to be a poet, a tenure-track professor, a wife and mother.
When her former husband dies in an accident, she is sent back in time. She remembers when the two met as infatuated, lustful PhD students. He finished his dissertation first; she never did.
Helping Margaret untangle her marriage and stalled career is American poet Wallace Stevens, whose poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird was the subject of Margaret’s unfinished thesis.
Stevens is a prickly, prodding character wonderfully played by award-winning Nova Scotia actor Hugh Thompson. He has to mince about comedically and later, express a harrowing sexual moment. His crisp, involved and nuanced performance energizes this show.
Lawrence’s realism as Margaret is essential to this production. Hers is an intense, accomplished and fearless portrayal. Working with movement coach Alexis Milligan, she has the unenviable task of making sex and sexual longing a visceral reality on stage. She succeeds.
Even though we live in a highly sexualized, mass-media world, it’s rare to hear women talk on stage or in TV and film honestly about sex. Banks reveals the secrets women keep to themselves.
Director Mary Vingoe has an elegant, pure vision for It Is Solved by Walking. The set design by Sue Lepage is spare and minimal. The floor is made of white paper, which wonderfully suits Margaret’s frustrated dream to write poetry.
The bed is white, its coverlet is white. The hanging backdrop for Nicholas Bottomley’s evocative projected imagery of cedar trees, oceanic colours and rain is white. There is a sense that Margaret is lonely and imprisoned.
The set, with jabs of colour, is like a surreal painting with Stevens’ desk elevated in a Chagall-like towering structure with a ladder.
The elegant design is also built on Ingrid Risk’s thematic lighting and Bottomley’s sound with Paul Cram’s original music. The blackbird motif is skillfully referenced but not overdone.
The audience knows each stanza of Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird must be completed and explained, which slows the pace. Yet, the way each stanza is woven into Margaret’s experience and illuminated as a sensation is masterful.
It Is Solved By Walking is as remote from straightforward drama as the sun is from the moon. It will not be everyone’s cup of tea but for those who love a stiff martini of poetry, passion, thought, the creative life, invention in theatre and a literary book, it’s a must.







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