The knife-edge life of an autistic 13-year-old girl is especially sharp when her parents are estranged.
Lucy, the girl in the play of the same name, takes us on an eerie journey to the interior of two minds, both of them seeking silence.
“Lucy” is launching Cranbrook Community Theatre’s 2016-2017 season, and it opens tonight, Friday, Oct. 7, at the Studio Stage Door in Cranbrook. Canadian playwright Damien Atkins’s piece revolves around an autistic girl going through tumultuous change, but it is a story about a mother-daughter relationship, fraught with tension, in which the two begin to see themselves in each other.
Director Trevor Lundy has created a visual hallucination of a set, in which real life walls melt away to reveal Lucy’s dreaming mind.
At the play’s outset, Lucy has reached the volatile edge of adolescence, and her father Gavin, going through changes in his own life, is for the first time giving his daughter into the custody of her mother Vivian, a renowned and brilliant paleoanthropologist, so that Lucy can have access to schools, therapy, counselling, and a female mentor.
Lucy has been allowed to withdraw into her disability, and the effort should now be to draw her back out into the real world.
But Vivian is spectacularly unsuited to motherhood. She’s not even particularly suited to friendship. Million-year-old hominids, walls of caves painted eons ago, fossilized bones, and what all these represent — that is Vivian’s spiritual home, her own inner world.
The silent but volatile, spinning world of Lucy, her blood, excrement, and sensory integration dysfunction, bring the fastidious Vivian to the point of breaking.
But at one point, Lucy and Vivian meet in an hallucination, sharing the same nightmare, and the bond begins to develop. Like daughter, like mother.
Vivian is using her brilliance to prove that civilization is a mistake, and suddenly Lucy seems proof of that. To Vivian, Lucy’s autism is a rejection of the world, and a sign of a more evolved state. This validates Vivian’s view, and justifies her own retreat into her own interior world, of vanished fossil people and empty Ethiopian plains.
Vivian’s brilliance, and the desire to retreat into her own inner silence, is heading towards a crash confrontation with the power of the world of normalcy.
Along the way, there is a poetic definition of autism, a crash course in evolutionary science, and yes, the mercury thing comes up too.
Michael Prestwich plays Gavin, Lucy’s father. He is well-meaning and gentle, but Lucy is growing beyond him.
Dean Nicholson is Morris, Lucy’s therapist, who helps interpret Lucy’s world for us.
Ashlée Perreault is Julia, Vivian’s colleague, assistant and admirer, who has an instinctive deft touch with Lucy and who observes with alarm the changes Vivian is going through.
The play is driven by powerful performances by Kelsey Thompson as Lucy and Tracy McGuire as Vivian. We actually see and hear the play from the viewpoint of Lucy, who narrates to us in her own proto-language, and from this colourful and alien perspective leads us into Vivian’s troubled heart — and genetic code.
CCT’s production of “Lucy,” written by Damien Atkins and directed by Trevor Lundy, opens Friday, Oct. 7, at the Studio Stage Door in Cranbrook, and runs October 8, the Oct. 12-15 and Oct. 19-22.