Last week, Factory Theatre premiered its production of Salt-Water Moon by David French, directed by Ravi Jain, starring Kawa Ada and Mayko Nguyen and featuring live music by Toronto singer-songwriter Ania Soul.
It’s 1926, the First World War is over, and every day the villages of Newfoundland are being abandoned by their young for a new life in the big city. But eighteen year-old Jacob Mercer (Ada) has come home to Coley’s Point, from Toronto, to win back his former sweetheart Mary Snow (Nguyen), who he abruptly left over a year ago. By the light of a moon-filled night, the former lovers meet to confront their past choices and contemplate a possible future together.
Part of Factory’s Naked Season, this beloved Canadian classic about love, loss, and reconciliation asks the audience whether, “can [one] ever truly return home?” Re-imagined by Jain and team, this production is as visual and auditory treat. As Jain explains, “Naked is about going to the roots of storytelling, it’s imagining the story with limitless possibilities.”
Beginning with the minimal set lit up by candlelight aimed to represent both the seashore and night sky, we are transported to a summer night in the East Coast. With Ania Soul as our guide, we meet Jacob and Mary.
French’s words come to life through Ada and Nguyen in a new light. Not only because of they look differently from the original characters in the play, but also because they speak without a Newfounland accent. The premise here is to have us focus on the inteplay of words and emotions between these two people, rather than be distracted by the set, costumes, and other props. The former lovers’ encounter after a year apart and what transpires proves to be a very honest, funny, painful, and heartfelt story we become privy to.
Ada embodies Jacob quite eloquently. His stage presence is always palpable, as is the easiness with which he delivers every line. Nguyen is also eloquent in her portrayal of Mary. Although stumbling on her words on occasion, Nguyen holds her ground equally and drew us into her very strong performance. The two actors interact charmingly on-stage; every word, every glance is so very important in this overdue encounter between the two. Ania Soul’s lovely vocals also add an extra layer to this production.
Having never seen a production of this play, I was captivated from beginning to end. Jain’s direction and casting definitely give this story a new flair. It is not perfect in every sense, but it is worth getting to know. If you have not seen any production of Salt-Water Moon, this is definitely one to embrace and enjoy.
Continues at Factory Theatre, Main Stage until March 13th. For more information, visit factorytheatre.ca.