The Hooves Belonged to the Deer at the Westbury Theatre until Nov 4

The play doesn’t propel into a straightforward exploration of religion. It’s only a prelude, moving quickly into three intermeshed stories about queerness, colonialism, race and faith.

Article content

In the beginning man created god.

So begins The Hooves Belonged to the Deer, and it isn’t long before the early inhabitants of the world capitalise the “G” and assign more authority to the deity. But this initial revamping of Genesis by actor-playwright Makram Ayache and In Arms Theatre Collective doesn’t propel into a straightforward exploration of religion. It’s only a prelude, moving quickly into three intermeshed stories about queerness, colonialism, race and faith.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Article content

At the centre is the queer teenager Izzy, a Druze (not “druid,” as his friend Will insists on calling him) Muslim recently immigrated to small town Alberta with his family. Izzy, played by Ayache, is crushing on Will (Eric Wigston) but is scared as to whether it will be requited. In another sense, he’s very scared that it will be requited. He’s also deeply afraid of his parents discovering that he’s homosexual.

Parallel to this story is another following Pastor Isaac (David Ley) and his wife Becky (Bahareh Yaraghi). They’re attempting to have a family but there’s also the matter of his son Jake from another relationship, who is struggling on the streets of Vancouver. These names are significant. Old Testament allusions and allegories abound here, but it’s not necessary to dig out your King James to wring sense of them; all you need to know is that the charming and seemingly good natured Isaac is determined to make up for his failings as a parent by coaxing young Izzy into becoming a good Christian.

The third story winding through is that of Adam (Adrian Pavone) and Hawa (Bahareh Yaraghi), known to Christians and Jews as Adam and Eve. The couple’s life in the Garden of Eden is interrupted by the arrival of the out-of-time Steve (Brett Dahl), who is on a quest for one of those fruits of forbidden knowledge everyone has been talking about. Anyone who has ever scrolled through religious or right wing social media will immediately pick up that the name “Steve” has not been given at random. They’ll also be very angry at how this particular side thread plays out.

Advertisement 3

Article content

That’s a lot of information to feed an audience in a performance that runs a couple of hours in length, but Ayache’s script and Peter Hinton-Davis’ direction moves things along nicely until you pick up the rhythm. It helps that the set of red sand, a table, a soft circle of light and a ladder that reaches beyond the ceiling can double for anything in the narrative, and that the actors themselves are nimble, doubling up on roles. Ayache himself is terrific as the troubled yet endearingly sweet Izzy, while Wigston adds some levity to the proceedings.

This is a complex piece that demands a certain amount of concentration, but while it’s dense with allegory and allusion it’s not excessively heavy. There are moments of lightness and revelation, adolescent horniness and humour. A dreamlike quality pervades, perfectly in keeping with the autobiographical aspects taken from Ayache’s life.

The Hooves Belonged to the Deer might have your head swimming by the end, but this isn’t said as a bad thing. There’s lots to chew on, and at least one quote near the end that could be taken either as simplistic irony or as a sincere summing up: “Allah doesn’t make mistakes.”

The Hooves Belonged to the Deer
When: Until Nov. 4
Where: Westbury Theatre, Fringe Theatre Arts Barns, 10330 84 Ave.
Tickets: $25, available in advance from fringetheatre.ca

Related Stories

Article content

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

    Advertisement 2