Apollinaire Delivers Humor, Grief With ‘Greenland’ (4 Stars)

GREENLAND – Written by Nicolas Billon; Directed by Meg Taintor; Stage Management by John Scala; Lighting Design by Danielle Fauteux Jacques; Sound Design by David Reiffel; Set Design by Matheus Fiuza. Presented by the Apollinaire Theatre Company at Chelsea Theatre Works, 189 Winnisimmet St., Chelsea, MA from February 20 through March 15, 2015. Running Time: 55 minutes

“Greenland,” written by Nicolas Billon and directed by Meg Taintor, is a comedy and a tragedy. It’s about discoveries in Greenland and also finding common ground among family.  It’s a study of a country and a study of personal trauma, family togetherness and individual differences. The entire production is performed in just under an hour by three talented actors. The actors play family members who are broken up speaking about a country that is splitting to create new islands; they consistently break the fourth wall and talk directly to us like we are alone in a room having an intimate conversation.  

Charlotte Kinder, who plays Tanya, opens the show using her “teacher voice” to describe a country project she is doing for school. She channels an adolescent spirit that flows from her voice to her mannerisms to her conspiratory smile. Ms. Kinder is like a terrific opening act, getting the audience warmed up. Referring to her index cards, she tells us about her assigned country, its mythology, and its name. Interspersed in her oral presentation are stories of her twin brother, adoption by her aunt, and games she played as a younger child, like repeatedly saying a multi-syllabic word as many times as she could aloud in one single breath.

Her commentary on education is well placed when she notes that using a book has rigor, but using Wikipedia’s cut-and-paste feature does not.Ms. Kinder has us believing that she is our “bestie” and we laugh along as if we were sharing secrets at a sleepover. She makes fun of other kids in school, then apologizes for doing so, and moves right back to being a student. Her bubbly personality is sparkly and delightful as she weaves an imaginative creation story about an island off Greenland involving her brother and being a twin. As I watched I knew if one of my students gave that kind of presentation, a stand-on-your-chair type of performance, it would no doubt be beyond great, as was that of Ms. Kinder.  

In the next monologue, Dale Young plays Tanya’s adoptive father, Jonathan, who is wrestling with demons involving three letter words like “ice” and “rye,” as in dry humor and whiskey. He knows that no one will understand or care about ice, so, instead of telling the science of global warming behind its appearance, he sells us on his story of discovering and naming an island off Greenland. He has a passion for glaciology, but not his wife. The unveiling of the drifting island mimics the unraveling of the family as they move to their respective corners. We, the audience, become aware of the fact that the characters speak to us, but not to each other.

Christine Power plays Judith, the adoptive mother/aunt (Gillian Mackay-Smith swaps in starting on 3/13).  After holding still on the sidelines until the very end, she speaks last in the monologue rotation. With cigarette in hand, she fills in the gaps and connects the dots. She tells her version of the family’s creation, as well as the island’s inception. She doesn’t reveal all the details, but tells us enough to understand how the family has broken apart, and we glimpse her own resentment over the name that her husband has chosen for his new island.  Whether 40, 50, or 60, something in this mother’s story rings true – tired of parenting, tired of being the steadfast wife, tired of blame, just damn tired. She acts it, we feel it, and it’s there.
I found the premise of Greenland intriguing and the actors well cast in their roles. I am looking forward to seeing Charlotte Kinder in her next endeavor, playing Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s Juliet in their Shakespeare OFF the Common production of Romeo and Juliet. The plot of Greenland is easy to follow with the presence of both humor and grief. However, the metaphorical use of an island provides an insight into family drama that sits at the heart of Greenland.  The play begs us to wonder whether a family can ever recover and reunite, or will outside forces cause them to drift apart like an island off a coast created by an invisible, but real, greenhouse effect. For more info, go to: http://www.apollinairetheatre.com/