Volume 92, Issue 66

Tuesday, January 26, 1999


Stereotypes take glory out of Gloria

Heart drained to a stone

Heart drained to a stone

Photo by Eisabeth Feryn
GIVE ME BACK THE REMOTE BEFORE I... Margaret Laurence's The Stone Angel plays The Grand Theatre.

By Jill Sutherley

Gazette Staff

And you thought your life was rough? Consider for a moment the life of Hagar Shipley, heroine of The Stone Angel by celebrated Canadian author Margaret Laurence.

Plagued by the guilt of her mother's death during childbirth, Hagar promises her father she will possess the strength her late mother lacked. In an attempt to fulfill the most difficult promise she has ever made, Hagar is nearly engulfed by the emotionally draining circumstances continuously surrounding her.

Hagar marries the wrong man, is sexually disinterested, experiences repetitive rape by her husband, bears a son to whom she feels no emotional connection and is disowned by her family. She goes on to lose a second son in a car accident. Hagar then runs away, lives in poverty, is ridiculed by society and in her elderly years, lives with multiple serious physical and mental health problems. Then, she ultimately dies.

Classic Canadian literature took to the stage Friday evening when The Stone Angel, adapted by James W. Nichols, opened at The Grand Theatre. The first setting introduced the dismal ambiance which lingers throughout the play. The backdrop hanging in various shades of stormy blue foreshadows the upcoming scenes of haunting sobs, shrieks, human pain and misery.

Undoubtedly, the acting in The Stone Angel is entirely worthy of praise and in particular the superior performance of Nora McLellan, who portrays the complex character of Hagar. Taking on the role of an elderly woman who compulsively reflects back on the landscape of her 90 years, McLellan's expression of such a vast array of emotion is breathtaking. Throughout her numerous and lengthy stirring monologues her character portrayal was captivating and incredibly believable.

Minimal special effects emphasized Laurence's simple story about an ordinary woman attempting to deal with the everyday decisions and choices confronting us all in one form or another. Eerie music accompanied the plot's continuous shifts from present to past and then back again. Though this technique of time change can often produce a disorganized effect, in this case director Janet Wright paid close attention to detail resulting in a series of flawless and engaging transitions.

Unfortunately, two and a half hours is a painfully long time to witness such a draining series of events unfold. The Stone Angel's quiet conclusion produced more than a few sighs of relief from restless audience members.

Still, The Stone Angel is a play about life – the human journey through trials and tribulations, along with the strength required to reach one's goals. Hagar's character is recognizably human and maintains empathic qualities, as her story speaks of universal themes. But seriously – how depressing!

The Stone Angel will be performed at The Grand Theatre until Feb. 6.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999