Hilarious and Heartwarming — Magnus Theatre’s Production of Crees in the Caribbean

Review by Stephanie Wesley

Drew Hayden Taylor’s hilarious and heart-warming play Crees in the Caribbean made me contemplate the importance of choices made now and how they will affect the future, and left me with a strong feeling of nostalgia.

The story takes place mainly in a hotel room overlooking the beautiful Mayan coast (the set is designed by Eileen Earnshaw-Borghesa, with Michael Brunet at work on the lighting). Here we find Cecil and Evie Poundmaker (played wonderfully by Gary Farmer and Marsha Knight) who have wound up on a second honeymoon in the Caribbean as a 35th wedding anniversary gift from their children.

The couple meet the young Manuela (Julia Porter), a housekeeper with a secret who is taken aback by the casualness and overall kindness of the Cree couple. Through various encounters and discussions early on, we learn much about the personality of each characters, like Evie’s strong sense of empathy, as well as the closed-off nature of the curmudgeonly Cecil. Evie eventually forms a bond with Manuela, and offers her advice on the housekeeper’s problems. There is something about Manuela and her issues that make Evie want to help her.

Although Drew Hayden Taylor is Ojibway and writes from that perspective, the author wrote the characters of Cecil and Evie impressively as Cree people. With the help of director Thom Currie, the actors brought those characters to life with stout honesty, sass, and compassion.

The conversations and debates between the married couple are often heated, but also hilarious, as they talk about their life experiences and family. Evie eventually makes one last effort to convince Cecil to let go of what it is that is hampering his enjoyment of the vacation and open up before the experience slips away from them.

When I was watching Cecil and Evie interact with each other and even with Manuela, I couldn’t help but think of my own grandparents and their relationship. From their banter, and even their clothing (costume designer Mervi Agombar did a great job when it came to selecting what an older couple would wear), I was reminded by Cecil and Evie of my grandparent’s own caring nature when it comes to other people, and the choices that were made to be able to work as a family for so long.  The performance left me very appreciative of the people in my life.

The play runs until February 11 at Magnus Theatre. For more information or to purchase tickets, call the box office at 345-5552.