'Café Daughter' brings many characters to the stage
BY DENNY SCOTT
Café Daughter, the second play in the 2021 Blyth Festival season, brings a uniquely Canadian story to the stage and the show plays well on the Festival’s outdoor Harvest Stage.
While it’s a one-woman show, the responsibility of bringing Yvette, the main character, to life has fallen to two actresses over the two-week run: PJ Prudat, who played the character in the premiere of the show, and April Leung, who starred in the opening of the show last week in Blyth. Prudat will take over for Leung later in the run.
Leung, primarily through different body language dedicated to each character, differentiates between over a dozen characters throughout the show, including Yvette, her parents, her aunts, uncles and grandparents, her teachers and her classmates to bring the tale of Yvette to life.
Through changes in demeanor, voice register and vocabulary, Leung brought the story of Yvette, based on trailblazing Chinese-Cree Senator Dr. Lillian Eva Quon Dyck, to the Blyth Festival’s Harvest Stage.
While there was a hiccup or two on opening night, including some technical issues with the sound system, Leung pressed on, providing a great experience for the audience.
The play itself provides dozens of thinking points for a world mired in racial issues, between Yvette’s mother telling her to forget her Cree side and say she’s Chinese, to the racism she faces as a Chinese person, an entire world, perhaps unknown to many audience members, is revealed throughout the play.
It clearly highlights the racism that Indigenous people have dealt with and continue to face to this day in a manner that is understandable and not overly heavy-handed.
Playwright Kenneth T. Williams based the play on Dyck, a relative of his, after discovering an era of Canadian history in which white women couldn’t work in restaurants owned by Chinese men, leading to Indigenous women working there. As a result, many relationships like the one between Dyck’s parents were formed, leading to many children like her, the basis for Yvette. The story is fantastic and told through the minimal outdoor stage, which fits the play well. With the cooling weather of Huron County evenings and a wide open space for just enough of a breeze to form, the show was beautiful to take in.
While there is minimal use of the more technical aspects of the show, including wardrobe and sound, what is there helps to propel the story without being intrusive or distracting.
Café Daughter opened on Aug. 26 and runs until Sept. 5, with Prudat taking over the role of Yvette partway through the season.
For more information, visit blythfestival.com.