by Lynn on November 5, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

Moss Park

At Theatre Passe Muraille, Mainspace. Written by George F. Walker. Directed by Patrick McDonald. Set and lighting by Martin Conboy. Sound by Julie McCann. Costume co-ordination by Heather Landon. Starring: Graeme McComb and Haley McGee.

Presented by Green Thumb Theatre in association with Theatre Passe Muraille. Moss Park plays at Theatre Passe Muraille until November 16.

George F. Walker is one of out best chroniclers of people in tough situations. These people are usually on the edges of society; marginalized but functioning, recognizable, but kept at a distance. Always funny, sometimes frightening. It’s a combination that has made his plays and characters so compelling for more than 3 decades.

Green Thumb Theatre has been developing and producing original Canadian plays that deal with and explore issues relevant to young people.

It seems a perfect fit for both playwright and theatre company to join forces. They first collaborated with Tough, a play that followed several young people, their problems, disappointments etc.

Moss Park is a continuation on that theme. It concerns Bobby and Tina, an on-again, off-again couple trying to find their way out of what seems a hopeless situation. Bobby is sweet, but dim. He can’t keep a job for more than a day it seems. He gets distracted. He’s full of bluster. His grasp of right and wrong seems a bit hazy. Tina is much sharper. She sees through all of Bobby’s excuses, is often frustrated with him, but obviously loves him. Together they have a two year old daughter. Tina got pregnant at 19.

Because Bobby is such an unreliable man, he couldn’t take care of them. Tina and their daughter have to live with her mother, also fragile. Everybody seems to be hanging on by a thread in Moss Park.

The angst is palpable. So is the frustration of both of them wanting something better and not knowing how to get it. Tina is perceptive enough to know how to identify a problem and how to solve it.  But she also has the child-man Bobby to contend with. His naïve optimism leaves one limp in one’s seat because his solutions are so simplistic. Like a clear-thinking parent? Adult? Tina questions Bobby on his motives and solutions until even he sees the folly of his ideas.

The beauty of Walker’s writing and the gripping, muscular direction of Patrick McDonald is that they both put us right in the middle of that tenuous world. We might initially wonder what Tina sees in Bobby, but for most of this intense and hilarious production we see past the question and take on faith that she seems plenty to love.

There is a moment though, late in the play when I think Walker is going down a path that seems so against everything that Tina has shown she is about. I guess this is the breath holding part of the proceedings. But Walker, ever the master of tight situations, finds a way out and back, and a wrong road is averted.

And in the production we have two actors who gently, delicately take us by the back of the neck and bring us forward into their characters’ world.

As Bobby, Graeme McComb is gangly, quick-talking, slow thinking, a sweet bumbler. And he has disarming charm. As Tina, Haley McGee is quick witted; always thinking on her feet; always asking the right question that doesn’t necessarily put Bobby down, but coaxes him into thinking a bit harder. Together both actors have a tingling chemistry. They riff off one another and the dialogue crackles. They both play everything seriously, of course, everything IS serious for these two, and the humour just flies.

Moss Park deals with the world of teenagers or people in their very early 20s who have nothing; dream of something better; struggle, grasp to get out; try, and have a serious sense of humour. It’s a world that often is miles away from our own. The beauty of the play and production is that it opens up that world to us; envelopes us in it for a short time and gently lets us go to think long and hard about it, and Bobby and Tina,  long after it’s over.

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