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Crabdance

Absurdist drama in three acts by Beverley Simons. It premiered at A Contemporary Theatre (ACT) in Seattle, Washington, September 16, 1969, directed by Malcolm Black and featuring Marjorie Nelson, Robert Casper, Alan Scarfe and Gordon Gould. It premiered in Canada at the Vancouver Playhouse, January 14, 1972, directed by Frances Hyland, designed by Cameron Porteous and featuring Jennifer Phipps, Hutchison Shandro, Sandy Webster and Neil Dainard. It was subsequently performed across the country, notably at Neptune Theatre, Manitoba Theatre Centre and Citadel Theatre.

About her own play, Simons wrote (in the Talon edition), "I saw around me again and again a kind of woman who tormented and destroyed people around her...She was sitting on my head, on my breast, sucking the energy out of me...I started to write because I had to get rid of this woman, [but] I got inside her head and her guts and I began to understand her. What started out almost as an act of hate became an act of compassion."

Crabdance is a dense and troubling play which speaks of an old woman, Sadie, the men she lures into the nightmarescape of her home, and the rituals of life and death they perform together. The play also addresses several social concerns, including how society views the elderly, and - more in tune with the times in which it was written - how elderly women disappear into this society or carve a place for themselves in it (however bizarre). The tragi-comedy uses many of the devices of Post-WWII drama: a character coming into a strange environment, as in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf or The American Dream; symbols which sometimes contradict each other, as in Samuel Beckett's oddly nihilistic and yet affirmative works; and troubling humour, as in most of Harold Pinter's early works.

The critical reaction was positive, with James Barber of The Vancouver Province calling the work, "A fierce, exhausting play..."

It was published by Talonbooks in 1972.

Commentary by GaŽtan Charlebois.

Last updated 2011-01-20