Ideally, plays for young people that aim to impart a message should aspire to make their audience enjoy the play more than the message.
Night Light by John Lazarus (produced by the Cape Breton University Dramagroup and running currently at the Boardmore Playhouse) is on the surface about bullying, a hot topic in schools across the country. But it casts its dramatic net a bit wider to examine the fears that create bullies and the fears that create their victims.
Victor excels in school and Farley, despite a very smart (and the audience intuits) academically demanding father, does not excel in school. Farley, perhaps jealous of Victor’s grades (and afraid of disappointing his father), bullies him into doing his homework. Victor doesn’t know how to stand up to Farley and glumly complies.
Victor’s sister, Tara, is having her own fear issues: their father is in the hospital for a hernia operation and her fear for his welfare creates an ugly one-eyed monster inhabiting her dresser that only she can see. Victor as older brother and temporary dad has to step in and help his little sister conquer her fears and, of course, along the way he learns to conquer his own fears and that helps him to help Farley face his fears. Or as one of the great sages of our time remarked, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Lazarus’s script keeps the preaching to a minimum: his characters behave and interact with their world and their situations appropriate to their ages. There are flashes of violence, all the more disturbing because of their suddenness, but the clever addition of the monster (it’s more cartoon funny than sinister) softens the hard edge of the darker scenes.
The energetic, talented cast is uniformly excellent: David Hutchinson is both nerdy and caring as Victor; Eric Letcher, as Farley, is a tall order of mean but credibly grows more sympathetic as his character reveals a sensitive side; Bhreagh MacNeil is a charming and lively presence as Tara; and Malcolm Hiscock as the monster in the dresser elicited scary “oohs” and belly laughs.
That the cast brought their audience into the play was proven when one character’s breakthrough with fractions spontaneously brought a salvo of applause from the junior high school audience at the performance under review.
Todd Hiscock directed in his usual kinetic style, keeping the pace moving and the performances high energy. He understands his young audience needs to be involved every second of the show and he never allows the momentum of the show to slow.
Night Light should appeal to family audiences with elementary to early junior high school age young ones. Even if the cynical among us might not buy into the real applications of Lazarus’s answers to bullying, it is a great place to start a conversation with kids, parents, and other people affected by bullying.
Night Light has two public performances this weekend: Saturday, May 12, 7pm and Sunday, May 13, 2pm. Both performances are in the Boardmore Playhouse on the Cape Breton University Campus.
The CBU Boardmore Theatre box office is open Monday to Friday, 1 pm to 5 pm and an hour before performance times. Tickets are $12 general, $8 children and seniors, and $6 CBU students.
Next week, as part of their Annual Family Theatre Series, the Boardmore is offering one public performance of the Maritime Marionettes production of Jack And The Beanstalk on Wednesday, May 16, at 7pm.