Theatre Passe Muraille and lemonTree creations have just launched their digital run of Toka, a riveting, moving tale of generational feuds and the power of forgiveness. Set just after the collapse of communism in Albania, this compelling story combines music, movement, and beautiful dialogue to create a stunning work of art that you absolutely must see.
One thing I want to highlight before I talk about the piece itself is the accessibility that Theatre Passe Muraille and lemonTree creations have provided for this work. Toka is a digital presentation, so each ticket purchased gets you access to a link which you then watch at the designated streaming time. These tickets are Pay What You Can within their 3 price brackets of $5, $25, and $50. Each one is considered a Relaxed Performance, meaning that they take the time before the show to explain some of the elements which may be more difficult for some viewers, as well as describing what’s on screen for blind or low-vision patrons. They also have fully described streams for those viewers, and each stream is captioned for those who have hearing difficulties or who prefer captions as well. Each stream includes a Q&A after the performance with Director Cole Alvis and Writer/Choreographer Indrit Kasapi. They also have a special stream on April 23 at 2pm which has Albanian captioning, which I think is a beautiful touch. Thank you to the creators of this show and the companies behind it for taking the time and the care to make this play this accessible and I hope that this becomes something more readily available for patrons in the future.
The cast of Toka, comprised of Nicole Joy-Fraser, Indrit Kasapi, Kat Khan, Christopher Manousos, Riley Sims, and William Yong, took my breath away. Even though some of them didn’t even speak, their emotions came through vividly through their movement and expressions and their performances were stellar. I was truly mesmerized by this cast. Christopher Manousos’ performance was powerful to say the least. Being able to see his struggles, see the faces who haunt him, the constant pressure he felt from the men who came before him, made him a character we could truly feel for. And those pieces of movement where Manousos was joined by Kasapi, Sims, and Yong perfectly illustrated the inner turmoil the constant bloodshed causes him. It made me wonder if those other men in his family had felt that too, or had they just followed in the bloody footsteps of the generations before them without question or hesitation? Nicole Joy-Fraser and Kat Khan provide perfect foils for Manousos, as we see their strength showing in their kindness and forgiveness. Their soaring signing voices and stirring monologues were true testaments to their talent. I am in awe of these brilliant performers and the creative team who worked so hard to make this production come to life.
As I write, I am still feeling very moved by what I witnessed; Toka is heart-breaking yet hopeful all at once. While we watch these two families decimate each other, knowing that this has been going on for generations, we also see the potential for peace and love by the final tableau. Toka examines not only the physical cost of these tribal feuds, but the emotional cost of those left behind. I enjoyed how the movement pieces were able to starkly show the difference in Ermal’s thoughts and how it illustrated the hyper-masculine bravado that accompanies these feuds. However, the release at the end of the play, when Ermal is finally able to banish the family members who have been haunting him, is a true sign that these cycles can break. The women of the story are the exact opposite; we find out as the play goes on that attempts at peace and friendship amongst the families has also been trying to emerge for generations through the women whose men were slaughtering each other. Like Rozafa of Albanian folklore, Mrs. Marashi and Mrs. Noka are willing to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of both families, and that power is later given to Arjola Marashi with the help of Mrs. Noka. The true beauty of the story comes in the balance which is reached in the end; forgiveness and understanding that all are at fault, but that they have to work together to move forward. The final tableau of the last three remaining family members on both sides over the body of what will be the last murder in their feud is truly breathtaking.
Toka is only going to be available until April 23rd so you must get your tickets now! Make time for this production, you will not be disappointed. You can purchase tickets at Book Tickets for Theatre Passe Muraille – DIGITAL – Toka – Theatre Passe Muraille (patronbase.com)
Photo taken from https://www.passemuraille.ca/tickets/