by Lynn on May 25, 2014

in The Passionate Playgoer

Dead Metaphor

At the Panasonic Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written and directed by George F. Walker.
Designed by Shawn Kerwin.
Lighting by Rebecca Picherack.
Sound by Robin Johnston.
Starring: Nancy Beatty
Michael Healey
Haley McGee
Eric Peterson
Noah Reid
Julie Stewart.

George F. Walker’s latest romp into the dark side of comedy, a world we recognize including the inventive, intoxicating use of swear-words.

The Story. Dean Trusk has done military duty in Afghanistan as a crack sniper. Now that he’s out of the military he needs a job. He comes to Oliver Denny, a thoughtful civil servant who places people in jobs. Not much call for snipers in the ‘real’ world notes Oliver. But Dean has responsibilities. His wife is pregnant. His feisty father Hank probably has dementia and his mother Frannie will need financial help to take care of him. Added to this are Oliver’s issues. His job is frustrating. He’s married to Helen a foul-mouthed, ball-breaking, self-absorbed politician who will break every rule to get elected and have power.

Just when Dean thinks there is no call for a sniper in the ‘real world’ he is inundated with money and requests to kill someone leaving no clue or trace. Who does he have to ‘off’? Practically everybody. Does he follow through? Heheheeh.

Crooked politicians; hapless innocents; frustrated decent people; angry older folks trying to cut through the BS. Welcome to George F. Walker country.

The Production. Director George F. Walker likes things simple in his productions. So designer Shawn Kerwin has the minimum amount of furnishings needed: two comfortable chairs and a round table stage right, when Oliver is interviewing Dean to find out what kind of work he can do; centre stage a grungy barbeque and two fold-up chairs for the scenes with Hank Trust and his family; and stage left a table and chairs for the scenes with Oliver and Helen Denny.

I worry when a playwright also directs his own play—who will tell the playwright to cut scenes and who will tell the director the reign it in? And I have been concerned in the past when Walker has directed his own plays because he seems to choose a “louder/faster” course of direction. I needn’t have worried here. The whole cast is microphoned. People’s hearing is getting spotty so best solve it by having them amplified.

The stellar cast can take care of the rest. They know about nuance, subtlety and shading. They know how to build a speech gradually for full effect. As Oliver Denny, Michael Healey has made a career playing sad-sack blinkers who seem to have the weight of the frustrating world on his shoulders. His wife Helen is played by Julie Stewart a force of nature who will mow anyone down in her wake if they get in the way of her power. She crosses her legs with such finality and conviction it’s like a declaration of war.

Dean Trusk is played by the boyish Noah Reid, with a dollop of sweetness to make what he is skilled in, seem ironic. Dean’s wife Jenny is no-nonsense, put upon and smart enough to see a way out. A Frannie Trusk, Nancy Beatty suffuses her character with heart, worry, and resolve. And Eric Peterson plays Hank. I sense that Hank is Walker’s mouth piece. Because Hank is old he can get away with saying and doing anything. Because he is played by an acting wonder named Eric Peterson hank is an angry hero to all. He fights the big giant and reveals dishonesty and corruption. He rails against big business; big government; rules, and especially Helen Denny—a scummy politician if ever there was one; organized religion and he rails against what is happening to him in his own body. It’s a bravura performance with the piece de resistance being what Hank tells Jenny what he wants to do with her corpse, and what he wants to put down her neck after he chops off her head. And it’s hilarious!

Walker ramps up the farcical twists and terns in the plot in Act Two and delivers an ending that looks like a twist but is really not. The play is however an hilarious and sobering work with lots to say and laugh about.

Comment. All the typical George F. Walker trade marks are clearly evident in Dead Metaphor, a play he finished three years ago. So while it’s convenient to cite Rob Ford as the brunt of his jokes, that would be off the mark although still appropriate, all things considered

As for the title Dead Metaphor this is what comes up when the words are Googled:
“A dead metaphor is a metaphor which has lost the original imagery of its meaning owing to extensive, repetitive popular usage. Because dead metaphors have a conventional meaning that differs from the original, they can be understood without knowing their earlier connotation.”

The dead metaphor “Freelance” is used in the play as an example of the meaning. In medieval times there were knights or armored horsemen at least, who travelled the country as medieval mercenaries looking to join an army to fight. Because they did not belong to any company the phrase “freelancer” was coined and applied. Of course one can apply that phrase to anyone over time.

The language is raw. The tone angry. The result hilarious. But it’s not for the faint of heart or those with an aversion to swearing. This is Walker’s world. Deal with it.

David Mirvish presents the Canadian Rep Theatre Production.

Opened: May 23, 2014
Closes: June 8, 2014
Cast: 6; 3 men, 3 women.
Running Time: 2 hours, one intermission.

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