Edmonton continues to birth artistic masterpieces and Category E is no exception. On until the end of the month, this horror-comedy is produced by Maggie Tree Collective and has garnered many awards including five Sterling Awards for New Play and Independent Production. Written by Edmonton-based playwright Belinda Cornish, the madness that is Category E is as the program promises, Beckett meets Stoppard. As light-hearted as it is dark and at times disturbing, the storyline is as much about the state of science as it is a comment on our culture and our roles within that. This play is like chasing a rabbit down a hole only to find out it was your own reflection all along. Brilliantly written the experience navigates between the audience’s reality and that of the characters, with healthy doses of suspense mixed with an absurdist sense of humour.
The story starts with half-blind paraplegic and a possible psychopath who share a cell. There’s no indication of why they are there until a third person arrives. The dynamics of the characters shift and evolve as they learn more about one another, yet their interplay is made eerie from their lack of awareness of their imprisonment. As circumstances crumble around them, the trio clings to existing customs, never questioning their fate. Thier blind faith in a system that exists only to destroy them is underscored by their conditioning to the environment. A microcosm of real life, Category E hits a nerve with a raw and unflinching glimpse into how scientific discovery is often built on a foundation of moral and ethical delusions.
Corcoran, the appointed parental figure of the group is played a mesmerizing Robert Persichini who creates an illusion of sanity next to Filigree, a lovable yet volatile character that actor Diana Bentley masterfully delivers. Vivien Endicott-Douglas played Millet, the naive newbie whose innocence enables us to snatch peaks from behind the curtain. With the audience flanked on both sides, the staging creates the effect of being stuck on the outside as witnesses, yet the lighting and soundscaping had the effect of shifting the audience from uninvolved witness to voyeuristic participant in an experiment destined to end in tragedy.
The Coal Mine Theatre
1452 Danforth Avenue
Until April 29, 2018
Photo of Diana Bentley, Vivien Endicott-Douglas and Robert Persichini by Tim Leyes.