There is nothing about Christianity, or a search for the meaning of death or faith, that appeals to me, but tonight’s performance of the Seventh Seal at the D.B. Clarke theatre is astonishing and worth a trip out in the rain. Those who’ve seen the iconic 1957 film from which the script was drawn (by director Jen Capraru) may wonder why this story needs adaptation for the stage. Yet from the moment the audience is led onto the performance space and the lights dim, one is swept up in the strangely compelling medieval narrative. In live theatre one holds one’s breath, and that makes all the difference.
The knight Antonius Block, played with shocking maturity and nuance by Marc-Antoine Kelertas, has recently returned from the crusades and is challenged to a game of chess by Death, a role terrifyingly performed by Brefny Caribou-Curtin. The knight’s squire, performed flawlessly by Matt Dawson keeps getting into scrapes as the two have encounters with all sorts of people who are wither running from the black death or living their ordinary lives. There is even an actor, portrayed by Christian Jadah, who takes his mugging to terrific heights. Particularly moving is the rendition of Tyan the witch by Mehrnaz Mohammadi. Her solo scene was worthy of an actor with a lot more experience.
Jennifer H. Capraru has created an astonishing experience for her audiences. It is passionate and poetic and almost every scene is done in an innovative and imaginative way. Her use of theatre space is original and by times magical.
The set and props are delightfully designed by Valerie Letourneau-Prezeau, and Sonya Vallis has done a terrific job with the lights. Gabrielle Chabot’s remarkable costumes were mostly period but occasionaly perceptively anachronistic. An intense Franco DeCrescenti, for example, played the corrupt theologan Ravel in a trench coat. Here, both character and costume meshed to create an eerily familiar persona.
The great advantage of an academic production is freedom from budgetary constraints, allowing a cast of thousands (or so it seems) to make up for experience. The ending is moving, enhanced by the perfect final scene with all the actors watching the upstage wall. Continues through the weekend.
Oct. 18, 19, 20 at 8 p.m. • Oct. 20, 21 at 2 p.m.
D. B. Clarke Theatre, 1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Read Rover’s interview with director Jen Capraru here.