The story of a young autistic girl coming home to her estranged mother is the subject of Cranbrook Community Theatre’s upcoming new production to launch the 2016/17 season.
“Lucy” is told from the point of view of a 13-year-old autistic girl, but the story is more about her mother Vivian, a world-renowned anthropogist, who is more comfortable in her own emotional isolation from the world.
When her daughter Lucy was born, Vivian found herself incapable of being a mother to her, and left her with Lucy’s father, Gavin. But 13 years later, Gavin has asked Vivian to take Lucy back — a fraught reunion around which the play revolves.
“While it has an autistic character, this is more a story about a mother-daughter relationship, forgiveness and change,” said Director Trevor Lundy.
“Lucy” is a challenging production, especially for its two key roles of Lucy and Vivian. Lundy took care to cast the role of Lucy early on, back in May.
“It such an integral role, and we needed young actors, so we wanted to be sure,” he said. “We had seven girls audition, and any one of them could have got the role. But Kelsey Thompson really brought something special.”
Thompson, 17, is really growing into the role as the autistic Lucy, Lundy said. “She’s really brought dignity to a role that could easily have been a caricature.”
While the play’s narrative gravitates around Lucy, it is the role of her mother Vivian — played by Tracy McGuire, — that really drives the play.
“Vivian is a difficult role,” Lundy said. “Lucy, for example, as our narrator, gets to speak to the audience in a very verbal way, but as a character she is very non-verbal. Vivian has to respond to this non-verbal role — and communicate the changes she goes through.
“It’s a very challenging part, but Tracy has really risen to it. She brings a ton of experience, and has become very grounded in the part. She’s the driving force.”
CCT invited Lundy to choose a play to launch the 2016/17 season with Canada’s upcoming 150th anniversary in mind.
“I was reading scripts, and this one came across the pile,” he said. “[The playwright] Damien Atkins just happened to be one of my oldest friends. He’s gone on to a successful career as a playwright; and at first I was terrified to do this play — would I be able to do it justice?
“But that story about mother-daughter relationships really spoke to me, about that feeling as a parent of not being good enough, about that fear.
“I’m interested in those family relationships, those dynamics. There’s nothing can be more complicated, but so universal at the same time.”
Lundy explored similar themes in his play last year for CCT — “Making God Laugh.” But “Lucy” has been an entirely different directorial experience.
“It’s coming to life in a different way,” he said. “There are more non-realistic aspects, for one thing. Because Lucy is our narrator, much of the play takes place in her mind.”
“Lucy” also features Dean Nicholson, Michael Prestwich and Ashlee Perreault. It runs October 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 20, 21, 22, at the Studio Stage Door in Cranbrook. New this year for CCT — Wednesday, Oct. 12, is student night. Student tickets are $10.