Arts & Culture

Connecting in unlikely circumstances

By Lorraine Graves

Published 3:39 PST, Fri January 24, 2020

Last Updated: 12:08 PST, Tue February 11, 2020

Maki Yi’s one woman show, Gramma, (on now at Pacific Theatre), tells the story of her immigration to Canada. 

Upon her arrival, she lived in a Regina basement and cared for her 90-year-old landlady, who insisted on being called Gramma. 

In the show, Yi plays both roles. The Gramma she creates is a believable Prairie woman; a cranky survivor of the Dirty Thirties who is frugal to her core. When guests come over, Gramma serves one cookie per person.

Yi doesn’t understand the impact of that decade of depravation on the population of a whole region, but Gramma personifies it clearly.

The play bridges cultures as the relationship between the younger Yi and Gramma grows. Yi is Gramma’s caregiver in exchange for free room and board. 

Over the course of the play, we watch Gramma descend into dementia.

Interwoven between scenes from Yi’s past is a classical Korean folktale of a young woman’s devotion, determination and rewards that parallels her journey.

The stage is simple but evocatively set with basic furniture to represent Yi’s basement room. The room has a light, but Yi is instructed not to turn it on “because it would waste electricity,” according to Gramma.

The lighting and sound were flawless. Although Yi’s accent made some lines challenging to hear, the beauty of her movements and emotions shone through.

The play is a story of dementia, loss and isolation. Yi’s script is pure poetry.

After Gramma’s death, Yi reflects on how much she came to love this cranky old woman. She surveys the house, now emptied, calling it a place “where two lonely women lived together for three years.”

Yi is an experienced and promising Korean-Canadian playwright. Anyone who’s ever had a Prairie grandmother or aunt will laugh with recognition. It’s also suitable for anyone who’s ever felt like a fish out of water, which is pretty much all of us.

The Sentinel previously interviewed director Laura McLean. That interview can be found here.

Gramma is on at Pacific Theatre through Feb. 1. For tickets, call 604-731-5518 or visit tickets.pacifictheatre.org

—Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, also contributed to this article.

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