Past and present are skillfully brought together in the new play “Gramma”, produced by the Mississauga-based Sawitri Theatre Group.
Presented by Jasmine Sawant and directed by Christina Collins, the play is based on Dr. Jane Fraser’s book of the same name, covering the true history of Fraser’s family in the Meadowvale area of Mississauga. The play focuses on the character of Lillie Carberry as she grows up from a wide-eyed imaginative girl to a grown woman wearied by unspeakable tragedy, to an elderly lady who rediscovers the beauty in life through her family. Lillie’s interactions with her mother, husband, daughter, and son-in-law reflect all the emotions of pure humanity, and the cyclical nature of life is represented in the double casting of all these roles in Lillie’s life. Familiar faces come, go, and re-emerge in new people, while Lillie’s altered role in each conversation emphasizes just how much can change with time, yet still stay the same.
All these events are witnessed in the modern-day by Samantha Fraser and Raj Nilan, who provide their own interpretations of past events. In the vein of auteurs like Atom Egoyan, memories of the past are heatedly disputed by Raj and Samantha; each provides their own modern opinions, while also acknowledging their own personal anguishes. Just as Lillie’s life is upended by great changes, so is the relationship between Raj and Samantha influenced by revelations which tear them apart as soon as pull them together.
The play handles this switching from past to present with a simple yet effective lighting strategy, allowing the actors to entrance their audience on the strength of their performances. Specified musical cues sound as the years flash briefly before us, giving a foreshadowing of upcoming joy or sorrow. The simplicity of the set is done in a minimalist approach, and this also compliments the overall vision of the play. It is fitting that such a focused story about one person’s life should be so singular in its execution.
Cast and crew are to be lauded for their deft handling of a very personal story which encapsulates so much of humanity in such a simple focus. The life of Lillie Carberry provides moments of joy, heartbreak, and hope. Jane Fraser’s open and thoroughly researched look into her family translates very well to the stage, as done by the Sawitri Theatre Group.
“Gramma” will be performed on weeknights and weekends this summer at the Sampradaya Theatre in Mississauga.