|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Palace performance's plot is left hanging
By Christina Vardanis
Quick quiz: name the first thing that comes to mind when you hear these wordsKlan, white supremacy and dysfunctional families. While your first answer is likely 'Jerry Springer,' most aren't familiar with how close these issues were to home only 70-odd years ago. It turns out that Ontario has just as much in common with these topics as the toast of trash TV.
Raymond Storey's historical Canadian drama The Glorious 12th, currently playing at the Palace Theatre, paints an unsettling picture of Ontario in 1927. It depicts a religious and patriotic family's struggle to accept change, as bilingualism and European refugees spread throughout Canada. The MacKays are determined to maintain control of their land, becoming easy prey for two Ku Klux Klan recruiters who intend to profit from the political upheaval. Eventually, the battle between supporters and non-supporters of the Klan divides the family in two.
White supremacy and the KKK have been sensationalized to death in recent years, thanks to the talented journalism tactics of Springer and others. This production not only demands serious attention to the issue, but also forces Ontarians to realize what dilemmas faced their predecessors.
The show begins with a unique angle in mind, and focuses on how radical attitudes and beliefs can affect relationships within the family unit. While the isolated subplots are interesting, they are not given enough individual attention and are left unresolved. Virginia Pratten gives a solid performance as Prue Ryan, a wife torn between the love for her son, devotion to her husband and her own ideology which does not include the Klan. Her emotional tale is given a moment or two in the spotlight and then dropped to introduce the next subplot. This pattern continues throughout the show, and results in a lot of interesting stories that remain untold.
In creating the MacKays, Storey presents a family in which every member emulates a stereotype and behaves accordingly. There's a stubborn elderly father that represents the past, a daughter trapped in a loveless marriage, another daughter flirting with madness and a son anxious to overthrow his old dad and take over the business. Rounding out the predictable cast is a dim daughter-in-law baby machine, extremely susceptible to the power of suggestion. Storey makes no attempt to shake up the formula and confront the audience's own stereotypical beliefs. In doing so, the future of each character is revealed as soon as they are presented.
Director Phil Arnold sets the pace of the story at a crawl slower than a one-legged turtle when it begs to move faster. The script has some serious problems that stem primarily from dealing outright with KKK tyranny. The dialogue is contrived and delivered in a podium speech manner, with metaphors that are insultingly blatant. Large signs with the words 'KKK is bad' written in red would have been more challenging.
Credit is certainly due to the London Community Players for presenting a show that deals with one of the greatest moral disgraces of modern history. But in the end, The Glorious 12th succumbs to Springer syndrome, sacrificing an intriguing family drama for an overdone lecture on the evils of radicalism. And nobody even takes their clothes off.
©Judy Cairns/Off Broadway Photo