by Claire Moodey · August 13, 2014
The world premiere of Toronto-based Promise Productions' No Visible Scars sets itself a tough challenge. The play is written, directed, and co-performed by Deon Denton, in and of itself a huge task, and shares a story of a young woman struggling with deep, lifelong depression. This young woman named Myranda, played by self-described small town girl Tea Nguyen, opens the play in tears with a confessional to the audience.
It is not comfortable as Myranda shares her pain with us and we follow her to a graveyard where she tends a grave we come to learn belongs to her mother. With the next scene, we are introduced to Myranda's therapist, Deirdre (played by Denton). The play follows Myranda's sessions with Deirdre, her visits to her mother's grave, and confessions to the audience as Myranda weighs the decision of her lifetime: whether or not to continue living. This world is small and we are trapped in this looming question. We never leave the flatly staged trio of space: the graveyard, aloneness, the counsellor's office.
From the get-go the stakes are life and death and we are in the trenches. Depression and suicidal fantasies are not comfortable topics. They are difficult to live through. Those suffering are difficult to be close to. It is a monumental task to overcome the trauma that leaves individuals utterly hopeless. In her new work No Visible Scars, Denton sets herself the challenge of staging this proximity to pain and the exhausting effort of helping someone find the tools to overcome their own depressed inertia. The challenge is to find hope. From the dedication to community organizations, churches and youth groups mentioned in Denton's biography I gather she has had some first hand experience offering hope to others. I am not sure if her production successfully offers a lifeline to anyone in the audience who may be looking for one. I hope so.