Nov. 26, 2008 - Issue #684: I Served the King of England
Three Little Birds
Three Little Birds sees the happier side of family struggles
Kenneth T Williams’ script doesn’t waste any time jumping right into the unexpected three-way relationship that hatches between cancer-stricken Annie (Tantoo Cardinal), her stuffy social worker daughter Kerry (Michaela Washburn), and Troy (Clifford Cardinal), a 17-year-old father who breaks into Annie’s house to try and find diapers for his infant child. Annie discovers him in the kitchen, child in arm, and her maternal instincts override a call to the cops.
Kerry is less than thrilled, sure that Troy is unfit to care for the child, while Annie sees him as a chance to finally be a “kokum” (Cree for grandmother), aided by the fact her cancer is getting worse. And besides, she needs someone who can roll her medical marijuana into joints.
It’s a script that generates laughter without going down a cheap, quick road, though considering the volume of pot-y humour in Three Little Birds, in other hands it could’ve easily gone that way. The script takes the time to sow some gags, then let those grow into its biggest punchlines, grounded into plot devices: Kerry’s trip out to score some marijuana for her mother, and what she returns with, and how, is one of the shows stand-out moments.
The script dances lightly over its darker issues. There’s drama, but Three Little Birds never lets itself get down too heavily in the gloom, choosing instead to stick with the laid-back mantra of the Bob Marley song from which the play takes its name from: “Don’t worry about a thing, cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
There’s been quite a bit of buzz surrounding Tantoo Cardinal’s attachment to this show. In the role of Annie, she’s worth every word of it and probably a few more, which I’ll write here, now: Tantoo is immensely enjoyable to watch in the role of a sly woman nearing the end of her life, but with her wits about her. Her acting instincts are incomparably natural onstage.
The other two actors aren’t exactly wingless for their own skill sets, either: Clifford Cardinal (Tantoo’s real-life son) has plenty of youthful sass to propel Troy as a young father struggling to raise a child (“She’s not the problem” he utters at one point), and Washburn’s no-nonsense delivery makes her the joker in the end by playing it straight. Annie and her go on a trip to Toronto, and her knee-jerk reactions to any would-be suitors are hilarious (“I have a black belt in karate!” she snarls before launching into a tirade against meaningless sex).
Those two characters complement each other nicely: as opposite ends of the spectrum, moments they’re alone on stage together are fun to watch. Troy makes her squirm, as she tries to control the situation. With Tantoo in the mix, it’s an electric trio, as the pairings of which two currently stand against the other constantly shifts.
Director Vinetta Strombergs keeps the pace up through some frequent scene transitions, and only a few feel lengthy, and that all-Marley score from Richard J van Oosterom helps set and maintain the show’s mood: of a family drama that sees the cloudy days coming over the horizon, but would rather focus on each one’s silver lining. And Three Little Birds gives us plenty of that. V
Until Sun, Nov 30 (7:30 pm; Sun 2 pm)
Three Little Birds
Directed by Vinetta Strombergs
Written by Kenneth Williams
Starring Tantoo Cardinal, Clifford Cardinal, Michaela Washburn
Catalyst Theatre (8529 Gateway Blvd),
$18 - $23
New comments for this entry have been turned off and any existing ones are hidden. We apologize for any inconvenience.