Judith Thompson became one of Canada’s leading contemporary playwrights when, after a series of negative reviews, her play The Crackwalker (1980) was recognized as a brilliant piece of cutting-edge theater. Bleak and affronting, about the lives of those marginalized and abandoned by society, the play set a standard for a career writing realistic drama with psychologically profound characters and a commentary on the key social issues in modern-day Canada.
Thompson’s drama Habitat, which premiered on September 20, 2001 at the Bluma Appel Theatre in Toronto, also examines issues facing marginalized members of Canadian society. It focuses on the tribulations of a group home for troubled teenagers and the struggles of the home’s manager to remain on a prosperous suburban street while the street’s residents campaign to have the group home removed. Raine, whose mother has just died of cancer, grows and changes emotionally while she gets to know the man who runs the group home, one of its troubled wards, and an older woman who lives on the street. In addition to addressing themes of teenage anger and rebellion, the play explores the power and importance of the mother figure as well as what it really means to create a habitat of love and acceptance.
Act 1, Scenes 1–7
Habitat begins in a hospital room with Raine talking to her mother, Cath, who is too weak to speak because she is dying of cancer. Raine tells Cath she is going to take her bank card. Then Raine experiences a sort of trance in which she remembers when she almost died as a baby because Cath failed to bring her to the hospital soon enough. Cath then wakes up, but Raine leaves to meet her friends.
In the next scene, Lewis Chance introduces himself to the community in a high school auditorium, explaining that he is opening a group home on the prosperous suburban street Mapleview Lanes that will be full of children that everyone has “failed.” In scene 3, Janet breaks into her mother’s house because Margaret will not answer the door, they have a fight, and Janet leaves.
Raine meets Margaret by accident in scene 4, while she is trying to find the group home. In scene 5, Raine meets Lewis, who tells her she is “home. . .at. . .last!” During these scenes it is revealed that Cath died shortly after Raine left her in the first scene, and Raine’s father did not take her to live with him. In scene 6, Janet talks to her children about the group home and about how much she loves them.
Act 1, Scenes 8–21
In scene 8, Janet apologizes to Margaret, who is short with her and tells her to do something about the group home. Lewis tells Raine how much love he has for her, and Margaret speaks to a neighbor about the group home. Sparkle then describes to Raine how he broke into a house on Mapleview Lanes.
In the scenes that follow, Margaret shouts at someone from the group home from her back window, Lewis plays charades with Sparkle and Raine, Sparkle tells Raine that he killed his parents, and Lewis talks to his mother on the phone. Margaret meets Raine on a midnight walk in scene 16, and Margaret tells her that Lewis pockets most of the money he gets from the government for the group home. In scene 17, Sparkle tells Raine a story about his family and then reveals that he was lying.
Sparkle tells Lewis he thinks Lewis is sexy, and Lewis tells Sparkle he is fed up with him not caring about anything. Margaret complains to Janet in scene 20 that she is not doing anything to get rid of the group home, and in scene 21 Lewis finds Raine looking through his papers. He defends himself from her accusation that he is pocketing government money by telling her the story about how he failed to save his baby brother from dying even though he walked six miles to the hospital in the snow.
In act 2, scene 1, Janet and Margaret visit Lewis to tell him of their...
(The entire section is 1,020 words.)