By J.T. Rogers

A Canadian Premiere

Presented at the Edmonton Fringe Festival

Coralie Cairns, David Ley, and Vanessa Sabourin

Directed by Wayne Paquette
Stage Managed by Michelle Chan
Program and Poster Design by Martijn Magill

“People disappear all the time.

Nine times out of ten it’s because they choose to go missing.

And if you choose to vanish, you owe your past nothing.”



VUE WEEKLY – Eva Marie Clarke

Coralie Cairns, Vanessa Sabourin, David Ley… Fringe casting doesn`t get better than this – director Wayne Paquette has crafted a production that tops many a regular theatre season offering.  Oedipal, disturbing, mysterious and taut, Madagascar is a psychological and moral thriller – an intense cerebral ride that completely engages.  Set in Rome, around a disappearence, the play conjures up ghosts of a dysfunctional family through clean, sparely elegant characterizations on the part of this crack ensemble.  Emotion implodes rather than washing over the spectator in furious waves, and the resulting distance between audience and actor engenders a strange fascination.

4 out of 5 Stars.



The theatre of interweaving monologues has serious limitations, since people report, reflect, remember, instead of do.  This hauntingly intricate memory/discovery play by American playwright J.T. Rogers stands out in this crowded field.

IMGP0121For one thing, Madagascar is genuinely mysterious – not fake mysterious like so many plays where a dark secret has leaked into people`s lives, until theatre`s Clorox pen of `dealing with the past `bleaches the stains, etc. etc.  And this play is genuinely surprising, too, in the way it dispenses the contagious pop psych cliche that only in the reliving the past can we reclaim the future.

`If you choose to vanish, you owe your past nothing,`says June (Vanessa Sabourin) with a slight edge in her voice.  `What I have learned is… you must keep going forward. `When you don`t, you unleash chaos; worse you turn to stone.

Madagascar is set in a hotel room near the Spanish Steps in Rome, into which characters in different times arrive and from which they seem to evaporate.  This is not Plaza Suite, to put it mildly.

The central presence of the play is an absence: June`s twin brother has disappeared. Like June, their mother Lilian (Coralie Cairns), a vivacious, cultured and smothering woman who loved Gideon best, has spent years wondering how she could have failed to notice, to pay attention… and to what? David Ley plays family friend Nathan, a self-deprecating microeconomist who`s drawn to a lustre he himself does not possess, trained to draw conclusions from the details.

The performances, all of them pulsing with suppressed emotion, are exceptional.  And they interlock in a way that makes you, like Lilian, desperate not to miss anything.  In Wayne Paquette`s beautiful production, you learn things in heartbreaking wisps; you wonder with the characters.  The play has a living breath to it.

Unlike the cruder HereAfter, for example, which is also `about` the loss of a son, Madagascar is named for the shining mystery of what`s left.

4 out of 5 Stars.


SEE MAGAZINE – Paul Matwychuk

J.T. Rogers` Madagascar has a hole at the centre of it: a missing young man named Gideon – or at least that`s the name his doting mother Lily (Coralie Cairns) gave him.  His twin sister June (Vanessa Sabourin)  calls him Paul, while Nathan (David Ley), his mother`s long time lover, isn`t sure just how to refer to him.  (That`s one of the play`s small, gentle ironies: Nathan is a micro-economist, a specialist in the reasons why people behave the way they do, and yet it seems as though flesh-and-blood humans leave him absolutely perplexed.)

The play consists of interlocking monologues from all three characters, and there`s so little onstage action that I half wonder if this script was originally written for radio.  It also feels long by about 20 minutes, but the acting is exquisite – especiallys by Cairns, whose Lily is a loving mother, but also a monster – and that`s enough to make this elusive play worth seeing.  But you`d better be prepared to concentrate.

3 1/2 out of 5 Stars.




Check out things you`ll never see during the theatre season (Excerpt)

Follow the talent: a) Wayne Paquette is a highly respected stage manager who`s turned out to be a wonderful director, with a taste for unexpectedly challenging material, as you`ll know if you caught Afterplay or The Christian Brothers.  He`s directing (Marty) Chan`s God`s Eye.  Also, the Canadian premiere of Madagascar by the young American playwright J.T. Rogers.  `On the surface, it`s a mystery, a bit of a ghost story, a memory play,`says Paquette.  `Underneath, it`s so personal, all about detachment, people trying to connect, identity, how you define yourselves… its full of echoes, memories that conjure an image, then fade like smoke.`