By Lori Benjamin, Special to the Arrow Lakes News
Talk about adding Fuel to the fire! The Kootenay Zone Festival concluded with a conflagration Saturday night with an explosive production by Revelstoke Theatre Company at the Bonnington.
Fuel, by Jarod Blake, is a one act play depicting the struggle of a man (Jonathon King), played by Denny Kaulback, with addiction (Narrator/Addiction) Sarah Harper.
The measure of a play’s success can be judged by the reaction of the audience: Fuel got a standing ovation.
This was not an easy experience for the actors or for the audience. The subject material itself is disturbing, but the presentation is positively brilliant.
Playwright Jarod Blake writes a semi-autobiographical piece giving addiction a personality, a human presence, an influence which can be appreciated by anyone who has ever experienced addiction – and a perspective and insight to those who have not, but who may have witnessed the effects of addiction on someone they know.
Denny Kaulback plays Jonathon King to perfection. His determination to overcome his addiction is evident in scene one, as he declares, “I want to write!” and uses as a mantra Mo-tiv-a-tion.
Sarah Harper, the narrator, does a brilliant job of projecting to the audience what is going through Jonathon’s head. “I think I’ve fallen in love,” she says. Expressive facial expressions and dancer’s gestures leave no doubt as to her intentions. She becomes an entity in his life: her (Addiction’s) obsession with the man continues as she tells him “I am all you’ve got. No family, no friends, no bank account. I fuel you!”
Throughout the play, Sarah emphasizes the drama of addiction. King lies to his employer, to his mother, to his girlfriend to protect his affliction.
Grief, shame, remorse – the Narrator plays on these emotions to sabotage Jonathon’s attempts to get sober and in the process becomes so obsessed she loses control and experiences the withdrawal symptoms, a powerful scene where Sarah Harper’s background in dancing is Shakespearean in drama and essential to the play.
Adjudicator Danielle Dunn-Morris has a history with this production, having seen it at Mainstage where the character of Addiction was played by a man. The playwright Jarod Blake attended a performance in Revelstoke, and agreed with Director Lyn Kaulback that the narrator could be a woman and that the man could be depicted as older than the original character.
These changes, says Dunn-Morris, have given the play an additional dimension. Jonathon exhibits a whole other pathos; there is a joy for the character in creating a huge range of emotions. Having Sarah (Addiction) experience the horror of withdrawal validates her theme of the drama of addiction and shocks the audience.
The final scene is beautiful, asserts Dunn-Morris. As Jonathon takes up his writing, he directs Addiction to exit, stage left, and our last view of her is sleeping in her chair with a look of defeat on her face.
The intensity of the production is exacerbated by the simplicity of the set which was realistic, but never distracting, and by the lighting and sound which were exceptionally effective.
Congratulations, Revelstoke Theatre Company. You’ve done it again. Kudos.