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Embracing diversity, embracing love

Lorraine Graves   Feb-02-2018

Kawa Ada and Mayko Nguyen star in Gateway Theatre’s production of David French’s Newfoundland love story Salt-Water Moon Feb. 15 to 24.

Courtesy Joseph Michael Photography


Gateway’s newest offering, Salt-Water Moon, opens Feb. 15 and runs through Feb. 24. The play is by one of Canada’s leading playwrights, Newfoundland’s David French.

French started out writing half-hour dramas for CBC. He also wrote for the CBC children's program Razzle Dazzle before moving on to write a series of plays about the Mercer family. Gateway’s production is the precursor to the entire series, how the young couple met before going on, in subsequent plays, to explore their intertwined lives throughout the years.

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So while French’s love story, Salt-Water Moon, has music and humour firmly grounded in Newfoundland, this time round, the two actors are not typical Newfoundlanders.

Instead, they are children of immigrants. Kawa Ada fled Afghanistan with his family just as the Russians invaded. Mayko Nguyen’s family fled Vietnam.

“We wanted to challenge ourselves to see if the audience could come on this journey with us and imagine all of this, this deep complex, love between these two people,” says Kawa.

Kawa also works as a keynote speaker on diversity: “It’s one of the things Ispeak to all over the country. Colour blind is a term I don’t use. We want to see people in all their colours.”

“You have a boy who fled his home, because of his father’s trauma of the great war. (He’s) in search of something and leaves the girl he loves behind. She becomes engaged to another man in town. (The boy) comes back to win her back.”

Under the direction of Ravi Jain, Salt-Water Moon shows that love, in all its complications, is universal.

Normally Ada and Nguyen choose to live and work in Toronto, but they each had reasons for heading to Richmond with this production.

“Gateway is a theatre I have wanted to work at for a long time particularly because of Jovanni [Sy],” says Ada. Nguyen’s reason? Her family lives in the Lower Mainland.

“To do the show for them is going to be very special,” Ada says.

Ada describes his co-star, Nguyen, as phenomenal. And says that every performance, “She’s such a generous and giving actor, it’s very easy to fall in love with her.”

Done without Newfoundland accents but very much set there, Salt-Water Moon is rooted in the universality of the story, of music, of humour, of problems and, most of all, the universality of love.

Asked if there is much humour in such a serious subject, Ada replies, “In David French’s writing, that’s part of the Newfoundland culture. There’s music in the play and there’s laughter. Those are two things that go hand-in-hand with Newfoundland so we’ve tried to preserve that and bring it to the fore. It is part of this deep complex love between these two people.”

And the take-away message for Ada?

“This play is one of those beautiful gentle waves of love.”


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