Shelter

Shelter; music by Juliet Palmer, libretto by Julie Salverson, has been ten years in the making.  It premiered in Edmonton a couple of years ago, finally, got its Toronto premiere at the Berkeley Street Theatre  last night under the auspices of Tapestry.  It’s a complex and eclectic piece dealing with what it is to be human in a nuclear age.  There are two parallel plots which intersect in a way that makes dramatic sense but violate conventional notions of synchronicity.  This is, after all, a piece rooted in post Einsteinian physics.  The first concerns Austrian Jewish physicist Lise Meintner, one of the discoverers of nuclear fission.  She has been forced into exile by the Anschluss and is seen here refusing to work on the Manhattan project.  The second plot concerns a highly stereotypical 1950s American couple Thomas and Claire who meet at a social, marry and quickly produce a child; Hope.  Their “American Dream” is shattered when it turns out that the baby glows!  Fast forward 21 years and Hope is demanding her freedom in a world from which she has thus far been sheltered.  Reenter Meintner, engaged by Thomas to be Hope’s tutor, and still obsessing about the Manhattan project.  The final twist comes with the arrival of the Pilot, in WW2 Army Air Corps uniform, who uses a Geiger counter to find his prey.  He fails to convince Meintner to change her mind but does persuade Hope to fulfill her destiny as He pilots the Enola Gay to 31,000 feet and a clear sky.  It’s weird, disturbing and powerful.

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