Yesterday evening, all of the first-year Creative Communications students went to see Reservations written by Steven Ratzlaff. It’s a two-part play presented by Theatre Projects Manitoba that focuses on indigenous themes, primarily reconciliation.
The first thing that stands out is the minimalist set. There is one backdrop and three 6 x 20 foot screens that projectors cast landscape imagery onto throughout the play. During the first part, the set consists of a round wooden table and four wooden chairs. Although the set is minimal, the script and the acting is not.
The first part of the play is about a generous farmer, named Pete, who wants to give his land to the Siksika Nation. His privileged daughter, Anna, objects because she wants to inherit the land after her father’s death. Through their discussion, the characters convey information about treaties and colonialism, and reveal their ignorance and enlightenment. But there is no real resolution. We don’t know if Pete gives his land away, which feels unsatisfying.
The second part of the play is about a couple, Jenny and Mike, who foster three aboriginal children. Jenny doesn’t like the kids visiting the reserve and is afraid they’ll be taken away by CFS. The couple visit with an indigenous social worker, Denise, who explains why visits to the reserve are necessary for the children. The acting is so good that I catch myself feeling anxious when Jenny is really worked up. We learn that the kids are taken away and Jenny is crushed.
The play ends with a lecture presented by Denise. She talks about German philosopher Martin Heidegger. I’m not familiar with his philosophy, it’s hot in the theater, so I lose interest and wonder when it will be over so I can get some fresh air. But there is a question and answer session that follows. It seems like Ratzlaff is tired and hard of hearing, he doesn’t offer a lot of insight. Again I lose interest.
Overall, I liked how the characters showed different perceptions and beliefs about aboriginal culture. It felt very real. But I would have liked to see some resolution instead of lots of back and forth fighting.
You can see Reservations at The Rachel Browne Theatre until March 20.