Shelter from the Storm makes you think
In Peter Boychuk's new full-length play Shelter from the Storm, all three characters are broken - just in different ways.
A young American soldier running to Canada to escape a return to serving in Iraq.
A Vietnam War draft dodger whose wife of 28 years died unexpectedly running to the depths of any bottle he drinks.
And his daughter running away from what may or may not be her dream to be a surfing champion in California.
This trio comes together in Tofino, BC where Rick (Peter Hall) has offered Scott (Kyle Jespersen) temporary refuge pending the outcome of his refugee hearing. Caitlin (Lindsay Winch) is initially not happy with her father's decision but gets to know Scott better and takes up the cause.
Under the direction of Katrina Dunn, Shelter still seems to be a work-in-progress. There is definitely a good show here, but it's not yet complete. The most problematic character is the draft dodger Rick. He is an overprotective, almost controlling father and also a reminder of a past when Canada was welcoming to American deserters and draft dodgers. It's a mess of contradictions difficult to resolve when the situation gets away from him. (And as Boychuk noted in a recent interview, the play's ending has changed several times with Rick taking different courses of action.)
As for the production, Pam Johnson's set design is certainly one of the most elaborate I've ever seen at the Firehall. It's astonishing to see large trees and a rustic cabin on Vancouver Island inside a theatre. Costumes by Farnaz Khaki-Sadigh were spot on (and provided some of the show's biggest laughs, especially a certain pair of shorts). However, it seemed that there was not enough time to tech the show – the lighting and sound transitions were sometimes awkward.
With respect to the performances, it's Jespersen who is the real stand-out. He captures Scott's ambivalent reactions to being in combat and ongoing uncertainty about the decision to flee to Canada. Winch as Caitlin offers a solid portrayal of a BC girl whose experience growing up Canadian is very different from the show's male characters. Hall's work as Rick shows a man whose present is more affected by the past than even he knew. Overall, Shelter from the Storm is worth seeing. Lots to make you laugh partnered with a story to make you think about Canadian refugee policy towards war resisters in the past, present and for the future.