SHARP STONES

NOW Magazine - - STAGE - JOSE TEODORO

STONES by Anita La Selva and com­pany (Aluna Theatre, the Stones Project). At Geary Lane Stu­dios (360 Geary). Runs to June 10. $18-$20. 416-203-2535, alu­nathe­atre.ca. See Con­tin­u­ing, page 38. Rat­ing: NNN

Stones is a rous­ing as­sem­blage of dance, mu­sic, im­age and drama that fo­cuses on the world’s old­est form of ex­e­cu­tion as a means to speak out against myr­iad forms of vi­o­lence against women.

Cre­ated by di­rec­tor/pro­ducer Anita La Selva and per­form­ers Waleed Ab­dul­hamid, Nickeshia Gar­rick, Roshanak Jaberi, Lilia Leon, Anoshinie Muhun­dara­jah, Sarah Mur­phy-Dyson and Roula Said, the work has an ur­gency at its core is­sue that is em­bod­ied by its im­pas­sioned, fiercely ki­netic en­sem­ble. I only wish Stones con­veyed a greater cu­rios­ity about the so­cial and psy­cho­log­i­cal par­tic­u­lar­i­ties of pub­lic stoning, which is still prac­ticed openly, usu­ally as a way to pun­ish women for os­ten­si­ble moral trans­gres­sions, in nu­mer­ous lo­cales – in­clud­ing those where it has been legally for­bid­den.

As one of the per­form­ers re­minds us, stoning is per­haps unique in that it is the only form of ex­e­cu­tion that re­quires mul­ti­ple ex­e­cu­tion­ers, mem­bers of the vic­tim’s im­me­di­ate com­mu­nity some­times be­ing among them. This chill­ing fact stirs up ques­tions about sham­ing, in­ter­nal­ized misog­yny and a fun­da­men­tal im­pulse to­ward vi­o­lence that seeks both per­mis­sion and an out­let.

Stones ac­knowl­edges at least some of these is­sues both in its scenes and its some­times very lit­eral­minded video pro­jec­tions, but it falls short of of­fer­ing the sort of crit­i­cal es­say­ing that might have pushed this from a cri de coeur to some­thing more gal­va­niz­ing and ac­tivist.

But let’s cel­e­brate that cri de coeur: Stones is most pow­er­ful when bod­ies are in mo­tion, ges­tur­ing, rolling and tum­bling un­der the tidal shifts of scenog­ra­pher Trevor Sch­well­nus’s light­ing de­sign, and when voices are raised in song. Led by Said, the en­sem­ble be­comes a mo­bile mul­ti­lin­gual choir, their voices ac­com­pa­nied by hand drums, qa­nun, stones used as per­cus­sion and Ab­dul­hamid’s sup­ple, am­pli­fied gui­tar.

As a med­i­ta­tion on or de­liv­ery sys­tem for facts around gen­der-based vi­o­lence, Stones is per­func­tory. As a work of heart-pierc­ing, em­pa­thy­gen­er­at­ing au­dio­vi­sual lyri­cism, it is force­fully charged.

THEATRE RE­VIEW The pow­er­ful en­sem­ble piece Stones looks at vi­o­lence against women.

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