TORONTO — Toronto actor Daniel Kash plays a tormented general in Cruel and Tender, a play directed by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Atom Egoyan, now running at the Bluma Appel Theatre.
Written by British playwright Martin Crimp, Cruel and Tender is based on Sophocles’ ancient Greek tragedy Trachiniae (or The Women of Trachis). Sophocles’ story focuses on Heracles, Greece’s national hero, and what happened when he sent a captured princess home to his pining wife, while plundering the village of Euboas.
In Crimp’s play, Kash plays Heracles, a modern-day military general fighting a war on terror in bloodstained Africa. His pampered wife, Amelia, waits at home, unaware that her world is about to be shattered with the arrival of Laela, a young African woman for whom her husband has committed unspeakable atrocities.
“In our production, the general is famous for achieving success, security and peace on behalf of his non-aggressive home country,” Kash says. “My purpose was to fight terror in the world, but something has happened. While I’m away from home doing my duty, an incident has happened where I pulled the heart out of a young boy on a bus. Then, I went back to his hometown, levelled it and killed the guy who was running it, in order to get his daughter, Laela, who I am in love and in lust with.
“The politicians back home perceive that I have gone rogue and want to control me and show that I am a criminal now. So they have put my wife and her servants in a bunker outside of an airport in our home country. It is revealed to my wife that I am in love and in lust with Laela and she goes crazy about it.”
Heracles’s wife, Amelia, is played by Egoyan’s real-life wife, the award-winning actor Arsinée Khanjian. Although he’s directed her in several of his films, including Adoration, this is first time Egoyan will direct her on stage. He also previously directed Kash in the 1993 CBC film Gross Misconduct, about the late hockey player Brian (Spinner) Spencer.
Kash says that when directing a play, Egoyan has a chance to express his ideas of the themes in a symbolic version using stagecraft, and thinks Egoyan likes the intellectual literary aspect of theatre.
Kash is the father of two sons, Mackenzie, 10, and Tyson, 13, with his actor wife, Hayley Tyson. She’s not Jewish, but Kash was raised in a Reform Jewish home and recently commemorated his oldest son’s 13th birthday with what he calls a “fauxmitzvah.”
Although Kash, the son of the late conductor Eugene Kash and the late opera singer Maureen Forrester, is musical himself, he decided to pursue acting instead. His career spans two decades, and he’s graced the stages of CanStage, the Stratford Festival, Tarragon Theatre, Edmonton’s Citadel and the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre. His film and television appearances include Alphas, Casino Jack, Skins, The Line, Aliens, On the Road and Fugitive Pieces, in addition to Gross Misconduct. Kash has had two Gemini nominations for best actor.
“From a cultural point of view, I grew up with volatile Jewish characters – including my father. It gave me a lot of emotional freedom without restraint,” states Kash. “Also, the Jewish population is devoted to literature, philosophy and to seeking out knowledge, and that is a huge help to an actor. It makes sense.”
Abena Malika plays Laela in Cruel and Tender. Rounding out the cast are Nigel Shawn Williams, Thomas Hauff, Jeff Lillico, Cara Ricketts, Brenda Robins, André Sills and Sarah Wilson.
Cruel and Tender runs until Feb. 18 at the Bluma Appel Theatre at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. Tickets at www.canadianstage.com, 416-368-3110, or at the box office.