Vancouver playwright Kevin Loring’s contemplative Where the Blood Mixes is a strange beast of a play, one which plays heavily on parallels and contradictions.
Though it is physically set in a town called Kumsheen, it is symbolically set at the bottom of a river, effectively allowing us to probe the very heart of the people for whom that river means a lot, and, ultimately, the individuals within it.
The title of the play comes from the proper translation of the word, Kumsheen: the place where the blood mixes.
The story centres around a man named Floyd (Billy Merasty), whose daughter was put into a foster home by the government years ago, shortly after his wife’s death. By his side is his best friend Mooch, who acts effectively as comic relief, though not without his own moments of sombre reflection.
Now, 20 years later, Floyd’s daughter has come back, seeking reconciliation with her father, who still struggles to face the facts of what he must do to make peace with his daughter.
Loring often opts for strong symbolism in Blood, creating a stirring piece of dramatic satire which is poignantly Canadian. It’s never heavy-handed and is done in a way that works harmoniously within the characters’ stories, rather than distracting from them.
The intermitant switch between a literal, concrete, physical world and a metaphorical, metaphysically abstract world not only serves to balance the comic aspects of the story with the more serious, heavy material to come, but also serves to sum up the central concepts that are dealt with in the story fairly well.
The scene in which Floyd is on the railroad tracks about to be run over by the train is an affecting dramatization of the inevitability of his ultimate encounter with his daughter.
The play’s greatest strength comes through Loring’s careful handling of the issue of Canada’s residential school system. Rather than attempting to tell a political story, and have a story about the human condition incidentally attached to it, Loring spins us a stirring yarn of a single man’s sin and redemption in the eyes of his daughter, with the political backdrop as merely a portion of the environment which his characters inhabit.
No doubt there are parallels between Floyd’s strained relationship with his daughter and the Canadian government’s with aboriginal peoples.
As Blood illustrates, only the decision to acknowledge the past can allow us to seek, and gain, forgiveness for our transgressions.
Published in Volume 64, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 18, 2010)