Aneemah's Spot

Aneemah's Spot
 
When it comes to tragedy, "nothing stays the same and nothing ever changes" for  the cast of Aneemah's Spot, a new production that deals with the aftermath of a violent death.
 
In the one-act play from MotionLive and the Cric Crac Collective -  which had its premiere at the the SummerWorks Theatre Festival in August  - the tragedy has taken place offstage, and all that is left is to cope with the outcome. It's a unique way of tackling a theme all too familiar to Torontonians these days in the wake of a summer filled with gun violence and victimization.
 
Following a friend's funeral, Aneemah and her could-be beau Wan attempt to come to grips with the memory of their departed friend and their complicated feelings for each other.  They hole up in Aneemah's sparsely furnished apartment barricading themselves from reality for as long as they can. But the future's only a policeman's knock away.
 
Played by Amanda Parris, Aneemah is a young woman putting herself through college, who prefers sweatpants to fancy dresses, who refuses to lionize the memory of her fallen friend G, a gang member killed too young. Wan, himself embedded in the same lifestyle that took his friend, is all nerves and paranoia, as performed by Araya Mengesha. A wannabe emcee, he is convinced the police and G's killers are tracking his every movement, using snippets of rap lyrics to communicate his anxiety and fear of ending up in a body bag or in prison.
 
It's not all doom and gloom, as the duo manages to find levity at times. A moment when Aneemah forces Wan to cook for her is as intimate as it is comedic, Wan making doubles like some dutiful Caribbean husband. They engage in constant banter as befits two lifelong friends who know each other's embarrassing secrets, reminiscing the past when they could do anything and the future didn't seem so inevitable.
 
The script from Toronto spoken word artist and playwright Motion intersperses plain dialogue with flourishes of performance poetry delivered as monologues by both Parris and Mengesha. Downtempo hip hop and r & b chosen by DJ L'Oqenz fills out the 50-minute production providing a soundtrack for cast and audience alike. The set design is sparse, Aneemah's few possessions dimly illuminated by the candle-adorned stage of the Lower Ossington Theatre. Dian Marie Bridge's simple direction keeps distractions at a minimum,and allows Parris and Mengesha, who were named best ensemble cast at SummerWorks, to cultivate a shared intimacy that seems genuine.
 
Likewise, Motion's script opts for enough quiet moments for Aneemah and Wan to get lost within their own headspace. Rather than having the main characters shout slogans the whole time, Motion keeps things focused on her characters' tangled relationship.
 

Annemah's Spot promises no answers, which may dismay some hoping for a tidier resolution. Instead it offers its young protagonists, caught up in the messiness of the past, respite from the lives they have chosen, if only for one night.