CRY questions and challenges

"What do you think the guy calling out over the water was all about?" I asked as all four of us went home after last night's performance of CRY, written by Gordon Ponak and performed by a talented ensemble of actors, musicians and dancers.

I don't remember the exact words they said, but it was something about being a metaphor for our inaction and indifference to the "epidemic of human trafficking in the world today".  It's there, but because it is beyond our reach and because our lives are filled with so many other things, we chose to walk on, look the other way.

"That makes complete sense," I said.  "I was thinking way too literally."

The fact that the play had inspired dialogue is a great sign of success.  That they pulled off a rather technical production complete with many of the theatrical bells and whistles with a small amount of time in the theatre is a testament to their tenacity.  Regular Keyano Theatre productions of this scope would have a full week and a half in the space before seeing an audience;  this A good i.d.e.a. production had a couple of days.

The facts are staggering, as we've seen with the banners that have popped up all over social media in the weeks leading up to CRY.  "This criminal activity generates $46 billion a year, second only to drug trafficking," shared Mark Wollenberg, a speaker from International Justice Mission, an NGO that focuses on rescuing victims and bringing traffickers to justice.

The story centres around Maddy, a young girl about to become a teenager, who gets abducted and forced into the sex trade.  Natalie Farahani does an exquisite job, rising to the challenge of playing a difficult role.  You could hear a pin drop in the theatre as she sang her song in the second act.  It was a stunningly beautiful performance, riveting.

Jamie Manship, who looks like a shadow of his former self after having gone through an amazing wellness and weight loss program, seized the role of Craig (Maddy's dad) with conviction and spirit.  The anguish and pain of having a child abducted are almost impossible to imagine, but Jamie effectively devolves into that space as days without his daughter become months, and months become years.

Michelle Daley, who was so gentle and kind in A Christmas Carol in November, was absolutely nasty in CRY.  She played Lacey, the lady who lures Maddy into the sexual slavery trap by promising an alluring under-the-table restaurant job.  I was afraid of her and I was 10 rows from the stage.

What can I say about Misha Albert, except that he plays a decidedly convincing snake.  As Uncle Terry, the king of this sex trafficking ring, he slithers onto the stage and then strikes with a viciousness and force that is completely believable.  I loved the fact that the playwright added some dimension to this character, integrating video footage of post-incarceration therapy sessions with a counsellor played by Hanna Fridhed.  There are reasons why evil people become so.  In our anger and pain, it's so easy to lose sight of that fact.

Kudos to the CRY dancers and the choreography of Nola Antony for weaving movement into this experience.  They added an essential dimension to the energy of the piece and the disturbing arc of the story.

The CRY band is off the charts amazing.  I'm going to write this down here, to make sure it's on the record, but the vocal pairing of Mychela and Jason Beck is sheer perfection.  Musical Director Dan Gillies has done a brilliant job of bringing these artists together and delivering some killer songs.  Their rendition of "Comfortably Numb" is haunting, ethereal and profoundly disturbing, in the absolute best way.

If you were writing a how-to manual for producing a grassroots, community-based, new theatrical work, many of the things that Gordon and his team did would be featured.  They nailed so many of the success factors, from engaging an awesome team of volunteers to raising miraculous awareness of the project through the media (traditional and social),  from making optimal use of their limited amount of time in the venue to aligning the play with its purpose.

At the end of the day, our family has a greater understanding about human trafficking and how it's not just something that happens on the other side of the world, it could just as easily happen in our own community, and sadly does.  International Justice Mission, and many other NGOs, have made a big dent in the number of young people being gobbled up by the sex trade, including Cebu City in Philippines, where they affected a 72-percent drop in a four year period.  But global and local organizations that do this work need our help.

Awareness leads to understanding which leads to action.  The more people who act on this particular brand of injustice, the more lives that will be save.


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