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Pamela Sinha.

Aviva Armour-Ostroff

4 out of 4 stars

Title
Crash
Written by
Pamela Sinha
Directed by
Alan Dilworth
Actors
Pamela Sinha
Venue
Theatre Passe Muraille's Backspace
City
Toronto
Runs Until
Saturday, October 19, 2013

With Crash, Pamela Sinha has written a truly harrowing piece of theatre, a play all the more remarkable for being her first.

In this one-woman show – returning for a second Toronto run at Theatre Passe Muraille after being named best new play at the 2012 Dora Awards, in a surprise win over Ins Choi's very popular Kim's Convenience – Sinha tells the story, in the third person, of an unnamed rape survivor who has a flashback during her father's funeral. Details of the horror she endured at the hands of a stranger in a Montreal apartment a decade earlier are slowly revealed, interspersed between scenes showing how the traumatizing crime affected her relationships with her family members afterward, and their relationships with each other and God.

The woman – she uses the word "girl" throughout to describe herself, as if trying to recover a lost innocence – struggles to remember the face of her attacker and is racked by guilt for either having been too afraid to commit it to memory, or for having blocked it out. "Can't remember isn't the same as forget," she says. "Forget is don't want to remember; can't remember is don't want to forget."

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Though presented in a chopped-up chronology, there's nothing fuzzy about Sinha's narrative, and everything rings true in its heartbreaking uniqueness. It all feels deeply personal.

While new to playwriting, Sinha regularly appears on Toronto's stages as an actor – and here she gives the most powerful performance I've seen from her, chilly and controlled. (It also won her a well-deserved award best actress at the 2012 Doras.)

Director Alan Dilworth, who also shepherded Erin Shields's Governor-General's Award-winning play If We Were Birds to the stage, again provides a stylish but sensitive staging for a story of violence against women. He keeps the tension high throughout.

Taking full advantage of the Theatre Passe Muraille backspace's recently augmented lighting plot, designer Kim Purtell has filled the tiny stage with an Escher-esque maze of black staircases, then throws pinpoint projections on them that take us to the scene of the crime and show us every piece of evidence. The whole package impresses thoroughly.

This is an edited review from the original run.

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