by Lynn on October 13, 2011

in The Passionate Playgoer

(l-r) Nick Abraham, Cyrus Faird

At the Toronto Free Gallery, 1277 Bloor Street West. Written by Tom Walmsley. Directed by Peter Pasyk. Starring: Nick Abraham, Cyrus Faird, Cara Gee, Dov Mickelson, Shannon Taylor.

Produced by surface/underground theatre

“Write what you know” writers are always advised. Tom Walmsley knows the drug world. Years ago, when he was younger he was a junkie. His 1977 play, THE JONES BOY deals with that dark, twitchy world in which women turn tricks for their men so they can buy drugs and get ‘fixed’.

The play takes place in the basement under the Toronto Free Gallery. The set is a dump of a space with a mattress in the corner, a bureau of drawers a dinky table and two chairs. Candy wrappers litter the floor. Bottles of pop are on the bureau. Someone needs sugar really badly.

Lee sits and fidgets on the edge of the bed. He eats chocolate icing out of the can. He is agitated. He breathes heavily. He seems more and more physically uncomfortable as time goes by. Is he sick? No he’s just feeling the affects of needing a fix. He’s waiting for Wayne, his buddy, who is bringing the supply of drugs.

When Wayne arrives both he and Lee shoot up and wait for the buzz of the drugs. They brag about who they will rough up or kill for their stash of drugs. They wait for their girlfriends to come home with the money they made turning tricks. Lee is with Carol and Wayne is with Sally (Lee’s sister).

Lee questions Carol about her trick; if she gave him oral sex or not. He is agitated but this time from the hit of the drugs. Their relationship is occasionally tender, often aggressive. She wants to leave that life. He says he can kick the habit and will for her. We know that’s not going to happen. Wayne and Sally don’t have any illusions or fantasy’s about their life.

It’s a dangerous world that Tom Walmsley writes about. His language is full of the slang of the drug world, gritty, and often poignant. And we see that world it up close and personal thanks to Peter Pasyk’s gutsy, in your face, vivid production.

Pasyk establishes the tone of the play, the world of it and a sense of claustrophobia immediately. We walk into the room where Lee is already sitting on the bed, breathing heavily, agitated and trying to keep calm while waiting for that precious fix to arrive.

The acting is superb. As Lee, Nick Abraham prowls around his apartment. He is combative, accusative with Carol, puffed up with Wayne and even sexual with his sister Sally and she with him. As Wayne, Cyrus Faird is like an off-leash bull-dog, ready and willing to fight anybody. His movements are quick and frightening. He’s ready to explode. As Carol, Shannon Taylor is sleek, multi-layered, who knows how good she is in her job and wants to get out of that world with Lee because she loves him. As Sally, Cara Gee, is coy, seductive and knows how to play a man, even her brother. And as the Trick, Dov Michelson is one dangerous dude. It’s some of the best work I’ve seen him do, and he’s done a lot of good work.

A quibble—guys if Lee and Wayne shoot up three times a day, they would have track marks on their arms. Yours were unmarked. If the audience is less than two feet away, we have to see those track marks.

THE JONES BOY is only an hour long, but in that short hour we are sucked into that world by this compelling play and production and happy to leave it to go into the rain and home—the characters in it aren’t so lucky.

Surface/underground theatre is a company to watch. They do edgy, bold work. THE JONES BOY is worth a visit.

THE JONES BOY runs at the Toronto Free Gallery, 1277 Bloor St. W, until Oct. 15.

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