by Lynn on September 27, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Hart House Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written by George F. Walker,
Directed by Andrea Wasserman
Set by Brandon Kleiman
Costumes by Kathleen Black
Lighting by David DeGrow
Sound by Jeremy Hutton
Cast: Jessica Allen
David Cairns
John Cleland
Connie Guccione
Renée Haché
Phoebe Hu
Lindsey Middleton
Sarah Murphy-Dyson
Sherman Tsang
Mike Vitorovich

A coup for Hart House Theatre to score the world premier of an original play by George F. Walker to open its season; strong work from the hard working cast and smart director. Too bad the play is dreadful.

The Story. The son of Mr. and Mrs. Kaplan and the daughter of Mrs Lee and her late husband have just gotten married. Aside from the happy couple, who we don’t ever see, neither family seems happy about the wedding. Overt prejudices abound on both sides. Mr. and Mrs. Kaplan dislike each other. He’s having an affair. She’s on her way to having one. Mr. Kaplan is a ruthless businessman. His son and daughter-in-law work for him and he hopes they come back from their honeymoon soon because there is work to be done. His mistress says that the newly weds are taking their time returning. They will also be setting up a rival business to challenge Mr. Kaplan. There are a few kidnappings; ransom demands; double crosses; triple crosses; a few killings and more twists and turns in this interminable plot than in a giant New York pretzel.

The Production. Brandon Kleiman’s multileveled. Compartmentalized set efficiently establishes the many and various locations in the story. Andrea Wasserman’s swift, efficient direction gives the play a sense of momentum even though George F. Walker seems to be working against that with every twist and turn in the plot. He has not written characters with any depth or nuance. They are all ranting, angry, unpleasant, one dimensional caricatures. What could have been an interesting observation of a mixing of cultures is little more than an excuse to spew stereotypical, racist clichés. As Robert Kaplan, John Cleland has the most finesse in making his ‘shark’ businessman half-way believable. Walker has laden his characters with such leaden dialogue passing as humour that if one hears a laugh from the audience, it’s startling. Listening to this unfunny play is so dispiriting.

Comment. George F. Walker has rightly earned his reputation as one of Canada’s sharpest writers. His Suburban Motel plays and other of his earlier works are biting and perceptive about people on the margins living in a broken social/political system. His characters had real concerns and were lively. His recent plays, and certainly We The Family, seem less like playwriting with an edge and more like speed typing with no plan except to pile on more ridiculous complications. Dreadful play.

Presented by Hart House Theatre.

Opened: September 18, 2015.
Closes: October 3, 2015.
Cast: 10: 3 men, 7 women.
Running Time: 80 minutes.

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