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Husband and wife team, Cristina Serra and Dan Watson, co- artistic directors of Edge of the Woods theatre, are bringing their performance of Ralph and Lina to the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. Ralph and Lina is the touchingly warm, comical, and dramatic performance of Serra’s Italian grandparents’ immigration story during the war.

When language is stripped away in a theatre production, the body, facial expressions, and gestures become the lingua franca of the performance. In the case of Ralph and Lina, Watson sees that the play works because it is “a universal situation, it is an immigration story, it is a very Canadian story” and “so the use of physical theatre makes it more accessible because we are relying on bodies and we are not relying on language.”

Watson and Serra met at Humber College’s theatre school and pursued studies of physical theatre at the École Jacques Lecoq in Paris and with teachers from the Lecoq school of pedagogy, respectively. As a married couple, the performers bring the dynamic and foundation of their relationship to the performance based in acrobatics, hand gestures, body language, and the use of the


face to express emotion. Watson pointed out with a laugh, “Well, there’s a lot of kissing and a lot of crying in the show, so we have no problem doing that.” At a more serious level, the performance works because there is a shared language that develops for actors performing a show and, as Watson attests, “there’s an increased shorthand between Cristina and me” because of “how comfortable we are with each other.” Like any married couple, they know each other’s “rhythm and timing.” Their sense of intimacy connects with the audience and draws everyone into the rapid- paced narrative that covers love, war, conflict, and the triumph over adversity.

The play has resonated with audiences across Canada and was nominated for four Dora Mavor awards (Outstanding Production, New Play, Ensemble, and Female Performance). But what attracts audiences is the compelling nature of the immigrant narrative. As Watson point outs, “We see the struggle, what people had to go through to make a better life for themselves and their families.” The couple’s ability to portray the intimacy of a relationship tested by the hardship of immigration allows the audience to experience the archetypal nature of this story. Watson indicates, “It’s a real story about the human spirit and what people are capable of when

it comes to love, family, and staying together.”

Ralph and Lina are characters who are realized through the narratives embodied by Watson and Serra in retelling immigration experiences. Watson sees that Ralph and Lina works because the characters “have fun with each other. Their love comes from friendship.” Ralph and Lina work as characters because of their “devotion to each other in the face of adversity and their desire to stay together.” Watson also explained that a central theme of the play was how one thing depends on another. In this sense, by working together Watson and Serra weave together immigrant stories, embodied experiences, emotions, and the human spirit in a compelling and dramatic narrative that eschews language for simple gestures that say so much more.

- Jon Eben Field

Edge of the Woods Theatre

Ralph + Lina Robertson Theatre MEMBERS: $25.50 REGULAR: $30

7PM Wed 2 + Thurs 3 Dec

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