by Lynn on February 6, 2010

in Archive,Picks & Pans

Tarragon Theatre until February 7, 2010

After a few weeks of holidays and relaxation it’s time to go back to the theatre. Our brave theatre critic, Lynn Slotkin has been to see COURAGEOUS by Michael Healey, which deals with prickly issues in a humourous way. Lynn is here to tell us if we should be courageous and see it or not.

Lynn Hello. Before we talk about the story, tell us about the playwright Michael Healey.

Michael Healey is an actor/playwright. As an actor he’s just finished playing George W. Bush in STUFF HAPPENS. As a playwright he is most known for his hugely successful play, THE DRAWER BOY. Many of Healey’s recent plays deal with weighty issues such as relationships, politics, what happens when good people do bad things and COURAGEOUS continues in that vein.

What’s the story?

Three couples meet at a justice of the peace. Two of the couples want to get married. The first couple is young and bickering. The bride has nothing good to say about her groom except that he’s stupid. He is very smart when it comes to avoiding getting any kind of job. Another couple arrives—early. They’re a gay couple… and they soon learn the person who’s supposed to marry them isn’t available at the moment. But they’re in a rush and the only justice of the Peace who can marry them refuses, because his religion does not recognize gay marriage.

This sets off a chain of events… where one of the men, a sharp lawyer wanting to be married sues the Justice of the Peace, citing his rights have been violated. Healey also deals with issues of unfairness in which the dim husband is about to be passed over for a job in favour of a refugee. The employer will get incentive money if he employs the refugee rather than the dim husband, So the play is rife with explosive issues.

Does Healey do justice to the issues?

To a point.

In Act I there is a crackling debate between the lawyer and Tom, the Justice of the Peace that he’s suing. Issues of The Charter of Rights, and a person’s right to marry who he wants are examined. Tom says that he’s entitled to freedom of his religion and beliefs and that means he can’t marry this gay couple. The ideas are well thought out, sound and the scene goes like the wind because of the splendid acting of Patrick Galligan, the ruthless lawyer and Tom Barnett as the thoughtful Justice of the Peace. In Act II the question of a Canadian losing a job to a refugee is dealt with.

And it becomes even more interesting because the the dim husband the Canadian, is lazy and avoids work, while the refugee will do any kind of work, and do it well. But while I appreciate Healey’s intent to examine big issues, and liked some of his arguments, I have problems with his play.

How so?

I think he sacrificed important smaller details for the big picture. Such as, the young couple in Act I is always bickering. The bride has nothing good to say about her dim groom. He’s unemployed and lazy. Why is she marrying him?

With the gay couple the Lawyer can’t or won’t reschedule his wedding—he’s double booked the wedding—with lunch with a client. What’s the urgency to get married? Again, he and his lover are always bickering. Why are they getting married?

Also, whether in life or in theatre, we should always consider the source of a statement. I would trust a thoughtful, articulate person’s opinion sooner than a shiftless waster who talks a good streak.

So we have Todd, the dim husband who is also the narrator for Act II. He gives a funny, perverse speech about why he collects EI and doesn’t look for a job. But I don’t believe a word this guy says, either as the character or the narrator, even though he is acted beautifully by the loose-limbed Brandon McGibbon.

I think Michael Healey is on really thin ice here. COURAGEOUS is a play full of ideas. It’s helpful if they are given by credible characters.

Who would enjoy this play?

Definitely Michael Healey fans, and there are a lot of them. The play is full of big ideas given the Healey treatment, with his loopy sense of humour. The cast is terrific and the piece is well directed by Richard Rose.

COURAGEOUS plays at the Tarragon Theatre until February 7, The Tarragon is wheelchair accessible.