Steinbach-born poet-playwright Patrick Friesen's "stage poem" A Short History of Crazy Bone is a portrait of a crazy woman... with the understanding that "crazy" is a matter of perspective.

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This article was published 29/3/2018 (1338 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Steinbach-born poet-playwright Patrick Friesen's "stage poem" A Short History of Crazy Bone is a portrait of a crazy woman... with the understanding that "crazy" is a matter of perspective.

In building the character, Friesen's inspirations range from his own eccentric great-grandmother to Bertha Rand, Winnipeg's infamous "cat lady" of Queen Street.

Tracey Nepinak (left, centre) has the only speaking role in the five-person production. (Dylan Hewlett photo)</p>

Tracey Nepinak (left, centre) has the only speaking role in the five-person production. (Dylan Hewlett photo)

But thanks to a terrific performance by Tracey Nepinak, Crazy Bone emerges as a singular creation, an outlaw without an outlet, a poet without a publication, a painter without a canvas, a shaman without a tribe.

Staged in the round on a stark rectangular set (designed by Linda Beech) distinguished by a single rude hillock on one end, the 90-minute drama (without intermission) is performed by Nepinak and four actors wordlessly providing support, playing everything from supporting characters to crows to cave paintings.

Their approach is filtered through highly stylized Japanese Butoh dance, choreographed by Tanja Faylene Woloshen, rendering Crazy Bone's environment in ways that cycle between grotesque, erotic, funny and terrifying, as circumstances dictate.

Circumstances certainly dictate a narrative unmoored by considerations of time and space. The character is a puzzle we put together through random recollections. Crazy Bone was involved with two significant men, each remembered for their choice of car, a Pontiac Parisienne and a Chevrolet Biscayne, each, she ruefully remembers, "headed for a funeral."

Other details of her life emerge: time spent in mental institutions, receiving electroshock therapy, taking a trip to Spain, homelessness, the haunting image of a girl she recognizes passing her in a car...

The chorus — consisting of actors Arne MacPherson, Tracy Penner, Zorya Arrow and David Arial — do fine work physically evoking the external forces of the heroine's life. (Dylan Hewlett photo)</p>

The chorus — consisting of actors Arne MacPherson, Tracy Penner, Zorya Arrow and David Arial — do fine work physically evoking the external forces of the heroine's life. (Dylan Hewlett photo)

Given a minimum in the way of conventional narrative, director Andraea Sartison maximizes the torque of the production with stark, yet nuanced lighting design by Itai Erdal, and a sound design by local artist Jaymez that augments the action in ways that can evoke nostalgia with the distant sound of a train whistle or the primal terror of a thunderstorm.

The chorus — consisting of actors Arne MacPherson, Tracy Penner, Zorya Arrow and David Arial — do fine work physically evoking the external forces of the heroine's life.

But mostly, this is Nepinak's show. The actress has an indefatigable, almost regal bearing that grounds the character in a way that, no matter how wild or unpredictable her actions, she seems to operate from a place of internal logic.

Nepinak gives the character a warm empathetic embrace, and we can't help ourselves from turning it into a metaphoric group hug.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

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Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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