Wellspring (Stage 13, Old Strathcona Public Library)
From Edmonton’s fearless Frente Theatre Collective, the same folks who brought us a play about tailings ponds, here is a meditation on fracking. Even largely unrepentant lefties like yours truly might try to toss off a snarky, disparaging one-liner or two on the artistic merits of tackling seemingly intractable topics like this for the theatre.
Which only goes to prove that smug predictions often blow up in your face. For, following a very brief, unfortunate opening (and closing), here is a tight, engaging 60-minute production, particularly well-timed politically for Albertans. And, as it happens, not just for us, since it actually premiered in Texas.
The arc of a small, foothills oil patch boomtown powered by fracking is well-told, sometimes powerfully so, by three townswomen.
Gabby (Janelle Jorde) is an upbeat teenager who cheerfully tries to make sense of the increasing tensions overtaking her town.
Rita (Natasha Napoleao) has moved from Atlantic Canada in search of the cash to fund the B&B she dreams of starting back east.
Bernadette (Rebecca Starr) is a devout widow who is steadfastly connecting the dots leading to her loss. Her dream is to visit Lourdes as a pilgrim.
For those of us who share the POV here (mea culpa), our views will be validated re: the dark side of the petro economy — and on a human scale at that. But you’d think that even those who give the industry more credit would have to be impressed with playwright Leslea Kroll’s sympathetic treatment of the townsfolk. For example, Rita, who is in denial for much of the story, just wants a decent job so she can return home.
Fringe festivals have a long, proud history in showcasing activist theatre. May it continue, and may Wellspring find the audience it deserves.
– Alan Kellogg