By Tracey Power. Directed by James MacDonald. A Western Canadian Theatre and Alberta Theatre Projects production. At Gateway Theatre on Friday, April 5. Continues until April 13
Tracey Power’s charming new play, Glory, takes place in the 1930s and is inspired by the true story of the Preston Rivulettes, an all-female hockey team in Ontario.
The players face not only sexism and economic hardship, but a rise in anti-Semitism and fascism, movements that ultimately resulted in the Second World War. Flash forward to just last week, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League announced its dissolution and the Associated Press had to issue an instruction to call things racist when they’re racist. It’s 2019 and thanks to sexism and racism, women are still fighting for space in this country’s “national pastime” and the media needs to be told language matters and to stop normalizing prejudice.
All of this is to say Glory’s timeliness is chilling in a way that I did not expect in a play that also contains no fewer than six intricately choreographed dance-but-make-it-hockey scenes, and is largely a feel-good story about women being awesome. Not only were the Preston Rivulettes a pioneering women’s hockey team, they were also one of the most successful hockey teams ever, male or female. Between 1931 and 1940, the Rivulettes won four Dominion championships, a massive achievement for a team started by two pairs of sisters who also played softball together and wanted to keep playing team sports in the winter.
The actors who play Hilda and Nellie Ranscombe and Marm and Helen Schwartz (their real last name was actually Schmuck) have wonderful chemistry, and are instantly believable as long-time friends, teammates, and athletes. Katie Ryerson, Morgan Yamada, Advah Soudack, and Kate Dion-Richard handle their physically demanding roles with impressive ease. Their characters’ banter is as divine as their increasingly feminist rage at the inequity they face, even as they prove over and over again that they are genuine masters of the sport.
Power acknowledges in the program that while aspects of Glory are based on real things that happened, other elements are more loosely inspired or creatively interpreted. But the play also feels like it’s overburdened. In the space of two hours (not including intermission), Glory tackles sexism, anti-Semitism, equality and equity, secret lesbian yearnings, poverty, war, internment, injustice, and sisterhood, and spends a lot of time on the actual hockey games. Power’s script is ambitious, her choreography is killer, and the cast is wonderful, but to borrow a sporting reference, Glory tries to cover too much ice and sacrifices some of its momentum as a result.