Mourning Dove – Reviews

“Sher’s wrenching drama… warrants many more productions and subsequent discussions.”

Iris Winston, Variety

“Sher’s script, Lorne Pardy’s directing and the [cast] illustrate how complex the responses of the human heart and human soul are.”

Michael Valpy, The Globe and Mail

“Extremely well written… Sher has avoided all the traps of high melodrama and false sentimentality… The humour creates a distance that forces us to think about the situation as much as to feel it.”

Alvina Ruprecht, Ottawa Morning, CBC Radio

Mourning Dove asks some very important questions. Sometimes, the role of theatre is to make you think about the world around you, and that’s what this play does so well.”

Anne Michaud, Tous les matins du monde, CBC Radio

“Brilliant… Sher’s script is touching and realistic… Mourning Dove is not to be missed.”

Jessica Ruano, The Fulcrum

“While Sher may cook with familiar ingredients from broadsheets and tabloids, he comes up with a tasty theatrical question in the vein of gods and monsters.”

Jennifer Ball, Ottawa Xpress

“Playwright Emil Sher has transformed his insightful radio play into a taut script that is constructed well and provides an emotionally balanced perspective on one family’s painful experience…The opening sequence set a powerful mood for the play. The lights dim, a spotlight appears, and we hear the unnatural rhythm of a young girl’s laboured breath…Tina Ramsay is the central figure – a preteen quadriplegic whose presence is strongly felt, yet she is never seen. This choice allows us to transcend the visual cues, relying only on vocal effects performed live from backstage…It might surprise you that Sher’s script offers numerous light moments to offset the emotional weight of the situation. The author’s choice to incorporate the story of Noah’s Ark is a good one. It’s both entertaining and insightful, illustrating how a man must choose who lives and who dies…Mourning Dove doesn’t offer a judgment on the actions of the father, but it does pose the question: “How would you feel in this situation?”

Trevor Smith Diggins, The Record

“What makes this play engaging drama, rather than topically-motivated melodrama, is a focus on the family dynamics…It also allows for the development of characters who are compelling…One of the most effective things about this show is that we never see Tina on the stage. At most, all we see is a pattern of lights on the floor in the stage right. This decision is effective in a sneakily subversive way; with nobody to physically inhabit Tina’s space, the pattern of light can represent any loved one the audience projects onto it. This touch allows the audience a more personal stake in the issues involved. ..If someone is suffering and there is no chance of their ever living a “normal”, fulfilling existence is it more merciful to kill them or let them live? In this difficult matter we all have our own beliefs. But whether we believe that Doug’s course of action is right or wrong, Mourning Dove shows us that he is no monster – just painfully human. So before we judge him, we should at least attempt to understand his choice, and to this end the play does a good job of developing just the arena to learn. More importantly, and to the production’s credit, the end of the play allows the audience to come to their own conclusions.”

Alexander Lunde, Imprint

“I wondered about the need for Keith to be a disabled character, but thankfully the use of an “outsider” figure such as Keith – or at least a character who feels as such – comes to make complete sense in terms of the way we consider Doug Ramsay’s actions… I am very pleased with the conceptual work that Dennis Horn has done in his design , creating the ordered world of Doug’s workshop on stage, and suspending the twisted version above, complete with things that are relegated to the attic of our imagination when a disabled child is born… The Robert Latimer case divided the nation, and with Mourning Dove, Emil Sher’s stirred up all of those feelings and arguments, but in a way that allows us to watch things unfold over time, and from varying perspectives.”

Philippa Scowcroft, Lucid Forge

“What would you do? It’s just one of the questions facing audience members after watching Theatre and Company’s production of Mourning Dove…It is not an easy play to watch for two reasons. We know what is going to happen, but more disturbing is whether we would do the same.”

Jeff Hurst, Cambridge Times

“Emil Sher examines the tricky emotional and moral territory of mercy killing in a play that is well worth seeing because there isn’t one clear answer…Sher focuses his poetic 90-minute drama on Doug and Sandra, a middle-aged couple whose only child is severely disabled….As Doug grapples with his daughter’s physical agony, Sher muddies the waters with the constant presence of a slightly mentally challenged young man Keith…Mourning Dove is a restrained, realistic drama. It is also a poetic meditation with a powerful metaphoric content…Sher’s intelligent navigation of this territory makes one more uncertain than ever about Robert Latimer, who has never doubted his action and who is anticipating day parole later this year. Did he do the right thing or didn’t he? Who are we to judge?”

Elissa Barnard, Chronicle Herald

“In the foyer of Neptune’s Studio Theatre, a lady declares loudly and unequivocally, ‘The father did the right thing. I wouldn’t let my dog suffer that much.’ In the car on the way home, a friend, the mother of a differently abled child, shares her feeling that the play ultimately condemns the father’s acts. These two very different responses were provoked by Emil Sher’s effective and affecting play, Mourning Dove…Beautifully staged and wonderfully acted, this is a must-see evening of thought-provoking theatre.”

Kate Watson, The Coast

“Pacific Theatre opens their 25th season with Montreal playwright Emil Sher’s powerful little gem of a play, Mourning Dove. Don’t miss it. Sher draws on the tragic Latimer affair to present two interwoven emotive and complex themes: the morality of love and the dichotomy of law and justice. In a sensitively restrained performance, Van der Griend paints a moving picture of an intrinsically good man, who loves his damaged child and nurtures her soul with story telling through plays using intricately carved puppet animals. Wittenberg portrays Sandra as a deeply conflicted mother, who wishes for someone or something to relieve her daughter’s pain but can’t force herself to take actionÉ Never seen but metaphorically as a pool of light, heard only through her laboured breathing, moans and soft cries, Tina’s presence permeates and indeed dominates the narrative, much as a wooden ark dominates the set.”

Gillian Lockitch,

“The play presents one sector of the complex minefield surrounding euthanasia. And the result is both terrifying and transcendent. Surprisingly, if you see the play, you will laugh as much as you cry… The staging is poetic and simple. Tina never appears in person but is rather a disembodied voice that laughs, coughs, cries and seizures. But she and her illness are ever-present and demanding forces… One of the most striking aspects of the play is the continuing and evolving relationship that Sandra Ramsay maintains with the man who murdered her daughter… See it and wrestle with the issues yourself.”

Billey Rainey, Plank Magazine

“Robert Latimer’s shoes are not ones in which any of us would want to walk. But a soul-searching journey is what Pacific Theatre has in store for its. Emil Sher plants us firmly in those shoes and makes us walk the terrible walk that took Latimer, hose in hand, from his workshop to the truck in which he had placed his pain-wracked, 40-pound child There’s no hand wringing or hair tearing, but Doug’s anguish is, nevertheless, palpable… The question Mourning Dove demands we ask of ourselves is, ‘What would I have done?'”

Jo Ledingham, Courier

“The Noah play… cleverly poses the play’s central issue: For every two animals that Noah chose, he left behind 100 to drown. Who gets to choose who lives and dies, on what grounds? And what’s God’s role in all this?… Simple, shattering moments are what make this play worth seeing.”

Jerry Wasserman, The Province

“A must-see… The play hauntingly reminds us that the person who can build and create can also take a human life… Provocative without preaching, this is a chilling portrait of a conflicted man whose actions will continue to fuel debate.”

Mark Selby, Toronto Star

“★★★★ Unflinching in its portrait of those of living alongside severe illness… Unerring in its basic but blunt realization…”

Byron Laviolette, eye weekly

“Director Liza Balkan and the performers understand the layers of the writing, building the production’s dramatic and emotional tension with care and leaving the audience drained at the final blackout… The stripping away of Keith’s innocence late in the show is a devastating theatrical moment.”

Jon Kaplan, NOW Magazine

“What good theatre does: it creates debate, argument and discussion… Emil Sher’s play handles this gut-wrenching subject with intelligence, grace and compassion.”

Lynn Slotkin, CBC Radio

“Playwright Emil Sher… challenges us to find for ourselves, after sorting through just a bit of the love and the pain and the horror, the right and the wrong of the tale.”

John Coulbourn, Toronto Sun

“The play is ambitious in its scope and excellent in its delivery, and with no intermission, it is a tension-filled experience for the audience.”

Jory Brophy, The Gate

“It is a difficult topic, and Sher has created an intelligent piece of theatre.”

Paula Citron, Classical 96.3 FM

“Had I any inkling what this one was about and where it was headed, I’d have been reluctant to attend. In my state of innocent ignorance, however, the effect of the events as they transpired was nothing short of harrowing. An unforgettable experience of theatre that I would not want to have missed.”

Patrick Donohue,

“Occasionally, we’re asked to confront a question well beyond our capacity. Mourning Dove thrusts a family into a situation of profound moral complexity, a literal life-or-death decision the ramifications of which are almost beyond our capacity to understand, let alone actually deal with… Mourning Dove largely subsumes the obvious moral question into an even-handed but no less harrowing exploration of the emotional states of its characters, though, a device that gives us insight without forcing our hand. The result… is a play that is occasionally punishing in its empathetic notes, troubling for anyone with pre-formed opinions, genuinely moving throughout and overall one of the finest pieces of theatre I’ve ever had occasion to see. …A play that will reveal far more about yourself than it does about the situation in question. I’m not sure what else you have any right to expect from a piece of theatre.”

David Berry, Vue Weekly

“Heartbreaking, yet restrained and sensitive… A Greek tragedy transposed to the wheat fields of Saskatchewan.”

Colin Maclean, Edmonton Sun

“This is what a good play should do. I want to be talked to, not at… As I left the Catalyst, I couldn’t help but put myself in Doug Ramsey’s position. What would I do? Could I do it? How bad do things have to get to push someone to that point?”

Trent Wilkie, See Magazine

Mourning Dove goes to some difficult places and, as a result, is sometimes hard to watch. The play is about a couple (Christy Huffman and Lawrence Coop) struggling to make the right choices for their severely disabled daughter, a 12-year-old who has known little but pain since she was born. The piece, directed with a sure hand by Matthew Byron Cassi, deals with euthanasia in a thoughtful, gut-wrenching way. Huffman and Coop give honest, heartbreaking performances. And Michael Burger is terrific as the developmentally disabled young man who is a friend of the family.”

Deborah Martin, San Antonio Express News

“What began as a radio play, adapted for stage by Emil Sher, has made its way to San Antonio’s San Pedro Playhouse, thanks to the effort of Director Matthew Byron Cassi… The play covers the difficult and controversial choices that the parents, played by Christy Huffman and Lawrence Coop, must make. Make no mistake; Mourning Dove’s difficult and complex subject incites more than debate, it forces examination of a less than popular social issue, but I applaud the courage that is took to bring this story to the stage.”

Kathy LeMaster, theFund