My Good Friend Jay
By Montana Adams (Porcelain Bear Collective)
35 min / Solo / Storytelling
My Good Friend Jay comes with a few disclaimers upfront. Montana Adams’s discourse on the challenges of growing up in Akwesasne, situated on the “Ontario, Quebec and New York corners”—how else does one describe a territory where borders have been imposed through and over your land—asks the non-natives in the audience to take some responsibility if this narrative is difficult to grasp… while the natives please suspend any disbelief at perceived embellishment. Adams then launches into an at times caustic, informative and humorous 35-minute one-woman performance that is equal parts challenging, delightful and moving.
Shifting a pile of packing boxes into walls, boats and 3D maps, her performance creates the geography of this Mohawk land, building the experiences of actually living inside a contemporary political dispute. Adams reveals the pleasure her 11-year-old self took in community gatherings brought about by border tensions “a party that lasted for weeks.” She delivers the feel of the topography, the intergenerational and familial links spanning the water and land—her father’s marina, her mother’s family house—and the islands that provided cover from residential school agents coming to collect children or smuggler patrols. Moving boxes and laying tape while her constant, surprisingly light patter, brings each rapidly shifting scene to life in this series of smoothly sequenced stories.
Adams is fierce in exposing the daily grind of acquiescing to the countless daily border crossings and bureaucracy. She is heartbreakingly fearless in depicting passive aggressive humiliation that is part of the process designed into the use of Indian Status Card in stores where clerks haul out the giant binder of “Indians that shop here.” These micro-aggressions clearly scar the spirit. Maintaining the performances winning pace Adams shifts to a nuanced funny and poignant segment on smuggling that her grandmother likened to a family “Mafia” business and draws laughter as she mimes the long border crossing wait times while building narrative that is about much more than waiting in lines.
My Good Friend Jay was a rare and unexpected experience at the Fringe.
My Good Friend Jay was a rare and unexpected experience at the Fringe. Refreshingly entertaining, it dives deeply in to contemporary, political material expertly curated into brief episodic sketches that flow seamlessly to create a brilliant whole.
It is stirring to see such a succinct and talented Indigenous artist expressing her unflinching perspective on colonialism and its legacy here on Algonquin territory. Adams uses anger and provocation with an ironic measure of jest to deliver a tour-de-force performance that tackles the enormous topic of contemporary Mohawk sovereignty. Her wit and decisive writing are the hammer that made this work so successful. With no self-indulgence, this playwright has trimmed her work down to its core gems ensuring a fully entertaining swift-paced performance.
Adams is a brilliantly gifted storyteller and My Good Friend Jay is a powerful work deserving of a wide audience.
My Good Friend Jay by Montana Adams is playing at Studio 2201 (10 Daly Ave) until Saturday June 22, 2019. Tickets cost $12 online (plus a $2 processing fee) and at the door. Visit ottawafringe.com for the schedule and box office info. Read more reviews at apt613.ca/fringe.