Langley Advance News, November 1, 2004


A strong cast, moving subject matter, and believable characters make Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun well worth seeing.

By Erin McKay

As a director, Shirley Clark has the ability to coax emotions from her actors that are guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings. So when she says to bring Kleenex to her latest production, you know she isn't joking. Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun, the Langley Players' first production of the 2004/05 season, is an emotionally-charged rollercoaster of a play that explores the relationship between a mentally challenged man and a young pregnant woman.

The moving play, which as in real life, is a constant tug-of-war between humour and tragedy, had the audience alternating between laughter and tears on opening night, Oct. 14. Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun, which was written by famed Canadian playwright Norm Foster and is produced by Mary Renvall and Nathan James, has also touched the actors themselves. Both Darren Chapel, who stars as the "simple in the brain" Robert, and Joanna Williams, who plays Holly, the woman who befriends him, have brothers with mental disabilities that stem from brain injuries.

"The brain is so unpredictable and intricate," said Chapel, whose brother Tyler became brain injured at birth, when he contracted a fever of 108 F. Robert, Chapel's character, received his injury at age six, when he almost drowned during a fishing trip. For Chapel, playing Robert was a chance to connect to his brother, to explore what Tyler has experienced. But he did not want to imitate him. "Every brain injury is different, every brain-injured person is different," said Chapel, who did research for the role by visiting with members of a brian injury drop-in group in Abbotsford. "As an actor, it freed me up to open up and experience the character," he said of his approach, adding it was important to accurately portray Robert's mannerisms and physical appearance, as well as his child-like, innocent approach to life. "There are not too many plays that portray these types of characters," Chapel said. "This play wants the audience to feel, but to connect on a reality level, not just on an entertainment level."

"The subject of the play is something that hits home," agreed Williams, who also has a brother with a brain injury. "Brain injuries are taboo in our society, and more awareness needs to be raised." "Health care and government programs often look at brain-injured individuals as mentally handicapped, and this is not the truth," she said. "These are real people, with real lives, who have had a bad stroke of luck, and are dealing with the hand that they have been dealt." "Robert's character is an example of this," Williams said. "He is a likable, considerate, and caring person. However, people may look at him differently because he is slow." "Unfortunately, in our society, individuals with brain injuries are not often given the chance to work, or the chance to live a normal life, because of the misconceptions that people hold," she added. "This all comes down to the lack of knowledge that people possess about brain injuries." "Hopefully this play will help to raise this awareness, and help individuals with brain injures to be regarded as real people, with real feelings, instead of being labeled handicapped," she said.

Williams and Chapel bring both their personal experiences and enormous talents to their challenging roles, and the results are compelling. Adding to the drama of Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun is the fact that Robert's doting mother Claire, lovingly portrayed by Langley Players' veteran Rae Purcell, is dying. After years of caring for her special son on her own, she is worried there will be no one to tend to him when she passes away. Rounding out the cast are Kris Gibson as the self-centred professor who is the father of Holly's baby, and Larry Hayashi as Claire's caring but over-worked doctor. Although their roles are smaller, the two actors make a big impression, and add to the professionalism that prevails throughout Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun.

The production runs at the Langley Playhouse, 4307 - 200th St., Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., until Nov. 6. For reservations, call 604-534-7469.

Joanna Williams and Darren Chapel star in Kiss The Moon, Kiss The Sun.