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John Koensgen, Kris Joseph and SamKalilieh.  Photo:Steve Boyton of Paul Toogood Photography
John Koensgen, Kris Joseph and SamKalilieh. Photo:Steve Boyton of Paul Toogood Photography

Theatre review: "Facts" at GCTC

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Facts is running at the Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa through May 2. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at the opening night and has this review.

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Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

The world premiere of FACTS by Ottawa playwright Arthur Milner gives the audience a lot to think about and even a few things to laugh about.  Set in the West Bank, FACTS is a fictional drama inspired by the unsolved murder of American archeologist Albert Glock.  It deals with conflicts between facts discovered by biblical archeologists and religious beliefs - discovery instead of revelation.  It comes down to whose interpretation of the facts one accepts. As one character says, "Who doesn't hate archeologists?"

The three actors, John Koensgen as Yossi, an Israeli policeman, Sam Kalilieh as Kahlid, a Palestinian inspector, and Kris Joseph as Danny, a smug and rabid Zionist settler and murder suspect, are all very strong. They bring to life what could be otherwise a rather talky play. 

Playwright Milner has written some lighter moments between Yossi and Khalid, such as their discussion about reversible American names.  Is the dead man Gordon Phillips or Philip Gordon?  It's obvious they've worked together before and even enjoy each other's company, in a rather jittery way.  However, once Danny is brought in, the tension mounts and tempers, especially that of Yossi, begin to flare.

The broken-walled police interview room set, designed by Martin Conboy and his associate Yvan Cazabon, suggests the broken land outside.  The sterile room contains only a water fountain, a table and two folding chairs.  Mr. Conboy's lighting gives hints of the outside world.  I liked the use of news clips at the beginning.  Sarah Waghorn's costumes are very good, especially Danny's.

Patrick McDonald has done a fine job of staging so that the play never becomes static.  At 70 minutes with no intermission, the pacing is good.  Mr. McDonald's choices of music are interesting.  He's clarified the ideas in the play and helped his actors become believable characters.  He's also mined the script for every bit of humor.  I loved Yossi's business with the cup of water.  The ending is not quite prepared for in terms of character, but it would be a terrible spoiler if I discussed it, so I won't.

As Mr. McDonald says in his program notes, "[The playwright] examines every subject he writes about meticulously and then sets out to look at an important subject in an entertaining theatrical manner."  Perhaps the best compliment I can pay Mr. Milner is that his play has prompted me to order Edward Fox's book about the original murder.  In any case, there's a great big bunch of good acting going on in this production.

On a scale of one to five the GCTC/New Theatre of Ottawa co-production of FACTS gets four and a third solar panels.  For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng. 

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