The lost dreams of Roseglen: One Polaroid, the last of the trilogy. A Fringe review

Boyan Peychoff, Julie Golosky, Jennifer Spencer in One Polaroid. Photo by Nathaniel Vance Hehir.

By Liz Nicholls,

One Polaroid (Stage 9, Telus Phone Museum)

What happens to golden moments and lost dreams anyhow? Judging by Michele Vance Hehir’s Roseglen plays, they linger in in the air of small prairie towns, contribute to sunsets, and melt past and future together into a perpetual present.    

One Polaroid, the third of the trilogy, takes us back to Roseglen, now a dying town in 1973. The school is gone, the train doesn’t stop there any more, the choir that once was isn’t. Roseglen is on a slow fade-out into the horizon. And two aging sisters, possibly its  last inhabitants, are endlessly playing out the repercussions of choices made long ago.

The days repeat on a loop. Jean (Julie Golosky) wants the radio on; Agnes (Jennifer Spencer) wants silence. Jean dotes on a cat named Lucky; Agnes grinds her teeth and sighs a lot about this. (Side note: Fear for Lucky. Cats, dogs, and even parakeets are apt to meet bleak ends in Canadian theatre of the naturalist type). 

Once a year on his birthday, a tradition the sisters cherish, their nephew Andrew (Boyan Peychoff) visits. There is a cake (always chocolate); there is fruit punch (always spiked with 7-Up). And there is a game (always guess-the-tune, artist first). 

But there are hints of change in the otherwise uninflected unspooling of days. Jean is prone to odd panic attacks. Agnes is determined that a long-buried family secret will get exhumed and revealed. And Andrew arrives, early, with news about his plans — plans that by definition include a jarring sense that time has a future tense.

It’s not a breathless intersection of high-speed forces, to say the least. The play paints a human landscape in a delicate, monochromatic palette that leans to the sepia end. And the production, directed by Vance Hehir, is punctuated — if that isn’t too strong a word — by long slow pauses in which the characters are remembering, or thinking, or thinking about remembering. In this crowd, a musical parlour game is a veritable rave.  

One Polaroid can’t be rushed that way. And the actors find the rhythm and the inner pulse of that kind of prairie minimalism rather beautifully. The tragedies of Roseglen have a lived-in feel about them. And secrets take a lifetime — or a trilogy — to get spilled. 

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