Review: A George F. Walker Double Bill

by Lynn on May 13, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Theatre Passe Muraille, Mainspace

Written by George F. Walker (well, who else?)
Directed by Wes Berger
Designed by Nancy Anne Perrin
Lighting by Kirsten Watt
Starring: Julia Heximer
Sarah Murphy-Dyson
Matthew Olver
Dana Puddicombe

A George F. Walker Double Bill is loud, blaring and in your face.

In a recent interview, prolific playwright, George F. Walker said his plays are not subtle or full of nuance. Absolutely right. Walker’s plays are more like rants about the inequity in the world; how the marginalized are treated; the rich vs. the poor. He has a keen sense of observation mixed with the absurdity of a situation. His plays can be both harrowing and hilarious.

The two plays that make up A George F. Walker Double Bill are more of the same. The two plays are Parents Night and The Bigger Issue and the things that get the focus of his ire are the school system; harried teachers trying to do their best in horrible situations; belligerent parents with issues of their own; a school system that doesn’t help anyone; and mental health issues that don’t get treated, and that’s just for starters.

In Parents Night Nicole is a grade three teacher trying to walk an even line with two impossible parents of two different kids. John is a corporate bully going through a divorce. He wants to know how his son, Patrick, is doing. He challenges Nicole when she tells him that his son is being partnered in a reading exercise by a girl, Sonya, and the father finds out the girl is East Asian. John lets lose with a litany of racist remarks about the work ethic if the girl’s parents; how they might be pushing too hard; how will his son cope and keep up.

Then Rosie arrives acting as tough and feisty as John is but dressed in a lower class way. Rosie is a former stripper. There is no husband. Her present boyfriend is a druggy. Her daughter comes to school with make-up that is totally inappropriate. Rosie is offended by the suggestion. The parents have their issues and fight the battles of their kids in different ways. They are both united in being as pushy and argumentative to Nicole as possible.

In The Bigger Issue Irene is a harried principal trying to keep a lid on a recent incident in which a teacher, Suzy, tried to subdue an out of control kid in her grade seven class. Suzy over-powered the kid and pinned him on the floor until he calmed down. And he had a knife with him. The parents, Jack and Maggie, are outraged that this happened to their son. Maggie, a severe-suit-wearing shark-lawyer comes ready for a fight. Suzy is overwhelmed. Irene is trying to do damage control. It turns out the parents are not what they seem. And it turns out that the out of control kid had been sending Suzy inappropriate e-mails expressing his affection for her. Secrets are revealed, lots of them.

The Productions. As with the true nature of a George F. Walker play, director Wes Berger’s production is devoid of nuance and subtlety. Characters come out with their ‘dukes up’ and their anger spewing. The dialogue is fast, furious with almost no breathing time in between. Just as fast as a line is given that’s as fast as the reply is returned. Walker’s characters don’t listen. They just react. They don’t think or ponder (that damned nuance and subtlety again). They blare and bellow. The teachers are harried and try to reason. The parents are having none of it.

In The Bigger Issue Irene, the principal charged around the stage in a forceful way; hitching up her pants often; shoving her blouse in the waist band of the pants. When she sat in a chair it was with her legs spread wide, as she leaned forward, arm on her knee. It was just a matter of time before her ‘secret’ was revealed by Suzy. Irene was a lesbian and of course, as we all know, there is nothing subtle or nuanced about them.

This production of these two plays, with their litany of wrongs in the education and mental health system, is like being bombarded with invective by damaged people ripe for anger management. The noise (yes noise) of the dialogue is like listening to a machine gun for two hours. Your head is throbbing when you come out of the theatre and it’s not because of the ‘bigger issues’ that have been expressed.

George F. Walker has found a perfect outlet in the theatre to express what pisses him off at any time. But I can’t help but think that this has less to do with playwriting and more to do with just typing his latest check list of rants.

Crazy Lady presents:

Run: April 23 to May 17, 2015.
Cast: 5; 2 men, 3 women
Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.


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