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Julie Orton, right, stars as Gwynt, a young woman who is basically a figment of the imagination of Gampy, played by Stephen Hair, left, in Blow Wind High Water.Trudie Lee

There's a moment, two hours into Blow Wind High Water – Sharon Pollock's new drama that had its world premiere Friday night at Theatre Calgary – when the water has risen so high that Gampy (Stephen Hair) is forced to crawl up onto the roof, where he sits with Gwynt (Julie Orton), a young woman who's basically a figment of his imagination.

There is banging on the roof, and then – pow! – Kevin (Marshall Vielle Naatoa'yotako), a two-spirited Indigenous lawyer, pops through the hole, then crawls up onto the roof to join them.

Of course, devastated people sitting on a roof in a flood, waiting to be rescued, is practically a stock photo these days, so there is something delightful, theatrical and alive about the moment.

It's one of those scenes in which you feel the power of theatre, the way theatre people can catch how we live now and mirror it back to us and help us to make sense of ourselves and our communities.

I only mention it because the other thing that made it stand out from the first two hours of Blow Wind High Water was how long it took to get to a place we might call delightful.

It's not that Blow Wind – which was commissioned from the 81-year-old, two time Governor General Award-winning playwright Pollock by departing Theatre Calgary artistic director Dennis Garnhum to mark the theatre's 50th anniversary season – doesn't have its heart or its head in the right place.

If anything, the thing that ultimately bogs down Blow Wind High Water, and keeps it from truly taking flight, is that it has its heart and its head in all the right places – which makes for an overbusy script that sprouts more subplots than the Oval Office Twitter feed early on any given Sunday morning. Giving all sorts of stage time to the various subplots ends up having the net result of drowning – sorry – out the flood, which comes in late, stays a while and never really gets a chance for a close-up.

That's not to say there are not theatrical pleasures to be found in Blow Wind High Water, in the form of smart ideas, or compelling characters.

The problem is the wind blowing that the title references is just as much about the man of the family as it is a poetic reference to the Calgary Flood of '13, or all the other metaphoric floods that have a long illustrious literary and religious history.

That's Doug (Doug McKeag), the 55-year-old grandson of Gampy, who together with a business partner, Frankie (Nadine Roden), are partners in a luxury-resort development in the tropics that is generating environmental and social havoc, resulting in activists burning it down.

Nothing wrong with that thread (which is also the plot of the film Beatriz at Dinner, an indie flick starring Salma Hayek). Pollock has been writing about social-justice issues on stage for 50 years now, but in this particular instance, it commits a couple of theatrical trespasses – namely the action all takes place offstage (boring), and the characters learn about it and relay it to the audience through cellphone and laptop interactions, all of which make for some pretty humdrum onstage activity.

Throw in the fact that Doug has a busted ankle, a midlife crisis in full throttle, and a son, Teddy (Tyrell Crews), who's a 33-year-old waiter with a master's degree in business, and you have a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown. McKeag spends most scenes raging like a 1950s white guy in an old Arthur Miller drama who woke up in the 21st century and found out things are complicated now, particularly when it comes to defining masculinity.

The frustration of being forced to spend so much stage time with Doug is that it forces Pollock to divert time and focus from Blow Wind High Water's women who actually form the subplot that drives the story.

Maggie (Alana Hawley) is a corporate lawyer about to be made partner. The only problem, it turns out, is that she's pregnant, which is spotted very clearly by corporate lawyer mom Eva (Valerie Planche), who confronts Maggie about the sacrifices a good corporate employee must consider, sacrifices women from her generation made to open doors for Maggie's generation.

Planche is a compelling actress, and watching her and Hawley joust, revealing a family secret that explains Gwynt, Blow Wind High Water suddenly takes another turn. It becomes darkly emotional, haunted by ghosts and memory and magic, a fever dream really that you can feel drawing you in – except it turns out to be the final scene between the two women, which is a shame, because it feels true.

That brings in yet another subplot, about the relationship between settlers and the Indigenous population, which feels tacked on and is not developed to the degree it needs to be to really pay off theatrically.

The message Pollock seems to be aiming for with Blow Wind High Water is that the flood was karmic payback for a lot of colonial exploitation – a haunted climate coming back to bite – the same way the family is haunted by the events of its past.

That sounds like some pretty compelling drama to me. Just keep the cellphones and laptops offstage, take the scissors to the angry one-note white guy – and it just might turn out there's a powerful, moving piece of theatre hiding inside the unwieldy one that had its world premiere Friday night.

'The Komagata Maru Incident' tells the story of a ship full of Indian passengers turned away from Vancouver in 1914. The play opens at the Stratford Festival on Saturday.

The Canadian Press