Whispering Pines is a tale of personal and political betrayal — before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. A layered mix of poetic language, set against a stark background, realism interspersed with symbolism, time shifts and disparate locations, this drama attempts to pack in a great deal but remains unnecessarily obscure.
In part an attempted justification of espionage and lies, in part the age-old revelation of an eternal triangle, Whispering Pines declaims rather than whispers, and demands rather than touches the emotions. While a number of interesting ideas are on offer in Whispering Pines, their weight drags any passion out of the production, as does Brian Quirt’s direction.
In Act I, set in East Berlin before the fall of the wall, playwright Richard Sanger seems to be trying to draw a picture of innocence through art and music, personified in Renate, a painter, and her lover, Bruno, a singer. The third member of the group is a Canadian academic, Thomas, apparently searching for truth (or love).
In Act II, set in Canada, years later, the three come together to re-evaluate their past and deal with the present.
The key question Sanger poses is whether actions in a different time and place should be punished now. Think Nuremberg Trials and other trials of war criminals for the obvious answer.
The strongest of three solid performances comes from Paul Rainville as Bruno. Kris Joseph is more believable as a dedicated researcher than a man in love and Tracey Ferencz tends to talk at the audience rather than to her companions.
A world premiere is always particularly interesting. It is a pity that this one did not live up to the advance hype.
Whispering Pines continues at the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre to November 13, 2011.
(P.S. The oompah/lederhosen live music at the after-show reception on opening night was at odds with the mood the show tried to create.)
Ottawa, Iris Winston, 28 October, 2011
at the Great Canadian Theatre Company
By Richard Sanger
Director: Brian Quirt
Set and costumes: Brian Smith
Lighting: Beth Kates
Sound: Ian Tamblyn
Great Canadian Theatre Company