Soulpepper Theatre Company began in 1998 as a champion of lesser-known classic plays.
But following Soulpepper’s new mandate to become Canada’s National Civic Theatre, the company’s announcement of its upcoming season includes a mini-festival of experimental contemporary solo performances and a celebration of Diwali including a performance of Twelfth Night (Piya Behrupiya) by India’s The Company Theatre.
Suzan-Lori Parks’s Obie Award-winning trilogy of plays Father Comes Home from the Wars, however, strikes a balance between the old and the new Soulpepper — it’s a contemporary play with the weight of a classic.
Under director Weyni Mengesha, responsible for hits like ‘Da Kink in my Hair, Kim’s Convenience, and Nicolas Billon’s Butcher, Soulpepper presents all three parts to Parks’s epic (inspired by The Odyssey) in one evening.
Father Comes Home from the Wars is anything but a daunting, endurance-building experience for the audience. With Parks’s poetic but current writing, Mengesha’s control of pace, and some thrilling key performances, Father Comes Home from the Wars seems to move faster than most 90-minute one-acts.
As mentioned, Parks splits her epic into three Parts.
Part 1, “A Measure of a Man,” takes place at a cabin in Texas in 1862, where a group of slaves wait for sunrise and take bets on whether Hero (Dion Johnstone, stoic yet vulnerable) is going to follow their master, The Colonel, to fight in the Rebel Army in the Civil War. If he goes, The Colonel has promised his freedom, but he’ll have to fight on the side that’s in favour of the notion of slavery altogether. There’s the influence of his companions as well—The Oldest Old Man (Walter Borden), who calls Hero his son (though not by blood), urges him to leave. Penny (a captivating Lisa Berry), Hero’s wife in every way but on paper, pleads with him to stay.