AlterNatives breaks new ground
at the Centaur Theatre

The indigenous play explores the clash of ideas and cultures, spiced with some humour

By Byron Toben

October 30, 2023

As public interest in the history and injustice to First Nation and Métis peoples mounts, it is timely that the Centaur Theatre‘s Artistic Director, Eda Holmes, has chosen to present this play, AlterNatives, by indigenous playwright Drew Hayden Taylor, originally written for the indigenous theatre cooperative, Menuentakhan. A clash of ideas and cultures, spiced with some humour, reminded me a bit of G. Bernard Shaw, mixed with, as one critic has written, the influence of Neil Simon.

Director Xavier Huard had a talented cast of six to work with in exploring hidden angst and hypocrisies. The plot centres around secular Jewish academic Colleen (Nadia Verrucci), partnered with Native writer Angel (Étienne Thibault), as she organizes a dinner party with two other couples, Dale (Charles Bender) and Michelle (Natalie Tannous), and Bobby (Xavier Watso) and Yvonne (Lesley Velasquez). Discussions include veganism as well as history and politics as the liquid part of the refreshments loosens tongues to the point where some guests storm off. All this in a simple set with a few chairs and hundreds of books piled up.

AlterNatives play

Under a recent practice inaugurated by the Centaur, singer/songwriter Sarah Segal-Lazar was assigned to choose appropriate musical performers for a short session in the gallery after some performances of each play. I was lucky enough to attend on October 27, one such evening, when she procured Métis singer/songwriter Mo Clark accompanied by guitarist Audi Marino.

Director Xavier Huard had a talented cast of six to work with in exploring hidden angst and hypocrisies.

Some trivia

The name Xavier… this was perhaps the first production to have three guys named Xavier involved – in addition to aforesaid director Xavier Huard and actor Xavier Watso, the set designer was one Xavier Mary.

Old joke about images in popular media

My musing during the show, somewhat distracting from the play, brought up to mind the corny joke about the Lone Ranger, mounted on his horse Silver and his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, mounted on Scout, wherein, on a hill crest, the Lone Ranger cried: “Tonto, we’re surrounded by bloodthirsty savages on all sides – Apaches to the south, Comanches to the west, and to the North and east, Sioux! What should we do?” Tonto’s reply, “WE, white man?”

Here is a video of some quickie interviews with the fine cast:

AlterNatives at the Centaur Theatre until November 5.

Images: Andrée Lanthier

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Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated websites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner, and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.

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