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.