Patron Saint of Stanley Park: a more intense holiday fable
Hiro Kanagawa's new play, The Patron Saint of Stanley Park currently on at the Arts Club, is about a harried mother, a troubled teenage daughter and a brainy ten year old son coming to terms with the death of the husband and the childrens' father on Christmas eve the previous year.
The two children are sent by bus to visit their uncle on Christmas Eve but they take a detour into Stanley Park to do their own private memorial to their father, who was a seaplane pilot that regularly flew past Prospect Point. They get caught in a major storm and are sheltered by Skookum Pete, a “displaced” man living in the park who has appointed himself the Patron Saint for the evening. The father makes brief appearances as a spirit appearing in different forms to each of the characters beginning with a pilot dressed as Santa communicating through Skookum Pete's jawbone.
The stage features a replica of a small part of the Stanley Park seawall although not much of the Prospect Point facilities where the main action of the play occurs. Lighting effects and action extend at times into and over the audience seating area making full use of the space the venue provides. In one of scene, Skookum Pete demonstrates quite an elaborate lighting and sound display in his shelter which provides an interesting diversion into Josh's science fiction fantasy world. Banners falling from the ceiling to represent trees falling during the windstorm are quite effective in reviving memories of the December 2006 storm that really did do a lot of damage to Stanley Park.
Playing against what one would expect from a typical, magical holiday faible, The Patron Saint of Stanley Park is too emotionally intense and immersed in the realities of life in this time and it would not be ideal for young children. The production stands out with great acting performances. Joseph Gustafson as ten year old Josh and Valsy Bergeron as teenage Jennifer are particularly impressive in their ability to carry their extended scenes believably throughout the ninety minute show. It is a treat to watch Jillian Fargey in the role of the mother Marcia and Brian Linds as Skookum Pete. Derek Metz portrayed the father, Kevin, quite capably in a variety of mostly brief scenes but was especially effective in the transformation from Santa into the regular fun Dad for teenage Jennifer.
The Patron Saint of Stanley Park is at the Revue Stage by the Granville Island Public Market until December 26. For more information camp here.