Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dionysus in Stony Mountain

As promised, I'm doing a blog post about the play Dionysus in Stony Mountain this week.

Dionysus in Stony Mountain was written by Steven Ratzlaff, and directed by Bill Kerr. The play only had two actors, Sarah Constible as Heidi Prober and Ross McMillan as James Hiebert and Uncle Eric.

It was held at the Rachel Browne Theatre, which isn't very easy to find even as a Winnipegger. It is located in downtown Winnipeg on the second floor of 211 Bannatyne. We were warned before we went that there would be a lot of steps to get up to the auditorium, but it was also a fairly steep staircase, which is worse than if it were just a lot of steps.

There were baked goods and drinks in the lobby for attendees, free of charge, but they did have a donation box with recommended donation amounts if you did get food or drink.

When we actually got into the theatre and were seated it became quickly apparent that bringing school bags along with us was a poor decision, since there wasn't too much room in between seats.

When the play started I wasn't too sure what to expect, I'd heard opinions of it that it wasn't too engaging. At first I didn't find it to be engaging either. Then, as the story was progressing it slowly, slowly, sucked me into it.

About 10 minutes into the play I took out a pad of paper and a pen to write down observations and thoughts because this play made me think. It made me think a lot.With its discussion of philosophy, religion, neurology (I think the word is neurology) and discussion of societal problems in Winnipeg and the world challenged the way I'm sure a lot of people think of things.

I found that there was a lot of dry wit and sarcasm in the play, which I found fairly amusing. As my mother describes it, I'm one of those sarcastic catty people who enjoys sarcasm. My significant other says I just have a deadpan humour. This play also did not pull any punches. It touched on subjects like:

- repeat offenders in prisons
- the assimilation of children into residential schools
- national identity
- fetal alcohol syndrome
- the idea of free will
- the inherent nature of human beings

I managed to jot down some quotes that grabbed my attention during the play.

"The capacity to blunder slightly is the beauty of DNA."

And when we find out why the character James is in Stony Mountain (which is a prison).

"My greatest joy has been destroyed by my own hand."

That line had a lot of emotion in it, and invited speculation. How would I react if I ended up destroying what was most important to me? Would I turn to philosophy? Would I lose my mind? How would other people react?

Then, touching on the subject of schooling, the character James remarks that compulsory institutional schooling is the "stupidest thing ever."

On the more sensitive subject of developmental delays, more specifically fetal alcohol syndrome and how it relates to crime and punishment:

"Would you let a car with no breaks back on the road? No! ... Would you punish someone for something they can't control?"

These quotes grabbed me and pulled me further into the play. The fact that the actors seemed to actually be feeling the emotions they were portraying also made watching the play more intense.

I can easily understand why someone would dislike this play, the characters act insane, but in an incomprehensible way. James was ranting about Nietzsche in the first act, while the ranting bug seemingly took over Heidi in the second act.

I found the play relied a lot on body language and physical actions to explain character feelings and relationships, which was not a bad thing. It was used very effectively.

In a sadder part of the play, I could hear someone in the crowd behind me sniffling -- it might have been a cold, but I interpreted it at the time as a reaction to the emotion and gravity of the moment. I wasn't even aware of the rest of the audience for the rest of the play, it sucked me in so much.

If it were still playing, I'd suggest people who are interested in debating philosophy go see it. Who knows, maybe they will perform it again. If they do, I know I'll be going to see it.


I'll see you all later this week, I've got a blog post about The Hunger Games movie and the Five Finger Death Punch concert brewing, though the concert probably will come first... just as soon as my voice and hearing come back.


  1. Woops, thanks for letting me know about that, I'll fix it a.s.a.p.