Loon is a play as colourful, bold and creative as Wells, the Cariboo town which hosted the performance for its twonight run in northern B.C.
Written, directed and casted by the duo Wonderheads, Loon has been making the circuit at fringes across western Canada and been garnering great reviews.
The Wonderheads, a duo from Portland, OR, are made up of Texan Andrew Phoenix and British Columbian Kate Braidwood, the latter of which worked at Barkerville for a time.
The play mixes melancholy and humour deftly enough to have tears of laughter and sorrow in viewers’ eyes, sometimes nearly at the same time.
Featuring a frumpy janitor, played in equal parts by Braidwood and the beautiful mask she constructed, who is unlucky in love and life, the play starts with the woeful character coming on stage with the ashes of his mother and a box of mementos from his childhood home.
Not even a telephone dating service, which includes a hilarious scene as Braidwood takes the character through a somewhat sad personal ad in which he proclaims himself a sanitation engineer, seems to help him find his special someone, until, finding his old lunch box and reigniting his love for space, he finds himself infatuated in a more adult way with celestial bodies, the moon in particular.
A fantastical tale, told through snippets of pop culture (the end lines of Casablana and Paper Moon are two that come to mind); puppetry, the mask which is Chameleon-like in its ability to portray an array of moods; a perfect, if spare, set; and a wonderfully physical turn by Braidwood.
The play is by turns a silent-era physical comedy and a melancholy cartoon; it’s almost impossible not to love.
The main character doesn’t utter a line through the play, though it could hardly be called silent. The use of a soundscape, perpetual rain along with a trip back through memory into his favorite space opera, Moon Wars, encourages the audience to imagine along with the Wonderheads to places usually kept to the big budgets and CGI tricks of Hollywood.
The cartoon quality of the character allow the Wonderheads amazing leeway, with the man, fully infatuated with the silvery moon, tramping through Africa and swimming the ocean (presumably the Pacific) to obtain that which he desires.
The play managed to draw in the audience enough to have them whistling at the phone-dating personal ad and moaning along with the janitor as he experiences life’s bumps.
The duo reference Pixar in their introductions and the comparison is apt, though Jim Henson amd Charlie Chaplin seem to have influenced them just a much.
The play is a delightfully whimsical turn from the usual concrete world we live in.