Welcoming the other into our lives out of compassion and altruism is supposed to be a joyful exercise.
And indeed, in “Amigo’s Blue Guitar” — Cranbrook Community Theatre’s latest presentation, which opens tonight, Friday, Feb. 8 — this is the aim. Helping the less fortunate by sharing the richness of our homes should enhance our days and uplift our hearts, bringing us closer together. This is the intention, isn’t it?
“Amigo’s Blue Guitar” opens with the arrival of Martha (Kathleen Simon), up from Oregon to visit her son Owen on one of the Gulf Islands off the British Columbia coast, where he has lived for years after fleeing the U.S. to escape the Vietnam War draft.
A fisherman, Owen (Jason Zimmer) lives with his daughter Callie (Eve Sperling) and son Sander (Tace Bradwell) — a comfortable bucolic life, although Callie and Sander are starting to wither in the island’s claustrophobic constraints.
Sandor tries to give his directionless life a purpose by sponsoring a refugee — Elias, from El Salvador, a country in the grip of a brutal civil war. As sponsor, the family will host Elias for at least a year.
Elias (played by William Nicholson) arrives, and proves to be a personable, charming young man. But he brings with him a darkness from his troubled homeland, including his having been tortured, and a grave uncertainty about the members of his family and the lover he left behind. Nonetheless, he works to fit in, and to get along with his new family.
Owen is sympathetic, seeing similarities in his own flight from the U.S. Martha takes to him as a member of the family. Carrie is fascinated and seeks greater closeness.
But the shadows that Elias carries with him start to bring out the darkness in his host family. Sander finds that his “project” is a living person with a heavy backstory — and both he and Callie are confronted with the difficulties of their own selves. Owen and Martha are forced to confront their shared past. And Elias himself finds it is not easy to escape his own history.
Crowded together on an island, they circle around each other, seeking resolution.
The play features the talents of local actors, some who are new to the stage, some fresh out of the recent production of Chicago. Newcomers or veterans, they bring great strength and courage to challenging roles, that though created in 1990, are especially relevent to today’s shrinking, troubled world.
“Amigo’s Blue Guitar” — written by Joan MacLeod, directed by Alexander Gilmour and produced by Sally Masters — opens tonight, Friday, Feb. 8, at the Studio Stage Door in Cranbrook. It runs tonight and Saturday, and then Feb. 14-17, and Feb. 20-23. Showtimes are 7:30, except for a 2 pm matinee, Sunday, Feb. 17. Tickets at Lotus Books.