All John Lennon (Graham Porter) and Yoko Ono (Sharon Marquez) are saying is give peace a chance. All John Lennon (Graham Porter) and Yoko Ono (Sharon Marquez) are saying is give peace a chance. Miki Sato

It's been 40 years since Beatles legend John Lennon and his avant-garde artist wife Yoko Ono held their Bed-In for Peace in Montreal.

The then newlywed couple welcomed special guests and the CBC to Room 1742 of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, where they stayed in bed for seven days in a non-violent protest against the Vietnam War and to promote world peace.

Much has changed since 1969; yet the piece reminds us of how so much has stayed the same. "Though society and government seem to have evolved to be a little more inclusive, violence and war is just as prevalent and in some ways even more glorified than in 1969," says playwright Risha Yorke. "My aim with this show is to reintroduce the ideals of peace, love, and non-violent protest into the collective unconscious."

With the state the world is in today, you wonder why there's no one stepping up to the plate, like John and Yoko did, now. The closest we can get to a peace-loving generation is at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.

Yorke and Draft89 dramatically recreate the scene of the Bed-In, full-on with details of white flowers lined on the headboard and hand-drawn signs taped up to the walls. Though the number of audience members paralleled the number of cast members at the opening night of the show, the multimedia installation piece worked well as an intimate gathering of about thirty people. Truly, to be there is probably as close as you can get to being a part of the real thing.

After getting acquainted with sitting on a velvet pillow leveled on par with cast members, John and Yoko's words and conversations soon become very real, and you find yourself involved in the debates of patronizing Conservatives mocking the bright-eyed and seemingly naive lefties. However, above all the noise, John's simple message pervades: "As soon as people realize they can have peace, they will have it."

The show includes John and Yoko's encounters with snide though curious reporters, hippie guru Timothy Leary, and free-spirited followers who talk LSD and meditation. As well as recreations of the most memorable moments of the protest, video clips of actors portraying activists Abbie Hoffman and Bobby Seale are played intermittently throughout the show. Glimpses into the couple's private moments are also depicted, and involve John repeatedly calling Yoko a "saucy bitch" before they make love.

The show ends with a genuine performance of peace anthem, Give Peace a Chance, where even the reserved people of the 21st century can't help but clap and sway along. Walking out of the theatre, you take some of the Bed-In's momentous optimism with you; but it only lasts until reality reminds you that the time when media was used for something good is over, and passive dramatic protests are perhaps just a romantic notion of the past.

Tip: Arrive half an hour early to get in close to the set and chat with John, Yoko, hippies and journalists!

John/Yoko Bed Piece runs through January 2, 2010 at Toronto Centre for the Arts (5040 Yonge St.), Studio Theatre. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased through Ticketmaster.

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