Icy Distance in Apollinaire Theatre Company’s GREENLAND

Photo credit: Apollinaire Theatre Company

Photo credit: Apollinaire Theatre Company

Presented by Apollinaire Theatre Co.
By Nicholas Billon
Directed by Meg Taintor

Feb. 20 – March 15, 2015
189 Winnisimmet Street
Chelsea, MA 02150
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Review by Gillian Daniels

(Chelsea, MA) One of the more terrifying aspects of climate change is its irreversibleness.  Once the environment has altered, it’s impossible to get the world back to where it was.  In Nicolas Billon’s 60-minute Greenland, we don’t only contemplate the fragility of the planet but the family unit.  The irreversible change that befalls Tanya (Charlotte Kinder), her uncle Jonathan (Dale J. Young), and her aunt Judith (Christine Power) is smaller than global warming but, in the show, just as brutal.

The play is divided into monologues, creating a story fractured into isolated pieces. When Kinder’s Tanya talks about her days as a freshman high school and the loss that her family has undergone, her guardians look off stage, wrapped up in their own thoughts.  The same happens when the spotlight falls on Jonathan as he ruminates on his discovery of an island off the coast of Greenland or when the excellent Christine Powers unpacks Judith’s marriage and inner-turmoil.  Though the characters talk about each other, trapped on a stage meant to look like Jonathan’s new island, they never directly interact.  This underscores the rift in their dynamic and is an admirable artistic choice.  Audiences looking for more forward-momentum in their stories, though, may hesitate.

Saying that, watching the characters unravel is engrossing.  Tanya’s attempt to create a creation myth for her uncle’s new island, certainly, takes a personal and moving turn as she grapples with thoroughly adult concepts.  Judith’s pitch-black cynicism is fun, her character fresh and funny even if the plot trajectory she’s been given as the discontent housewife is familiar.  Young’s Jonathan drifts more.  He’s soft-spoken, listless, aching, and invested fully in his career as a glaciologist, watching the world change around him with a somber disengagement.

A 60-minute story where none of the characters have the opportunity to talk to each other is an admirable challenge.  Apollinaire Theatre Company handles the play with care but, in the end, Billon’s string of monologues feel as if they skim the surface.  This is a snapshot of the characters during a particular rough patch.  We don’t get a good idea of what happens next or what revelations might come to light if one turns to the other and brings up the tragedy that has pushed them apart.  Even if that were to happen, though, there doesn’t appear to be an easy answer regarding how they would move forward.  Much like the effects of climate change, that future is uncomfortable to think about.

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