by Lynn on November 23, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Citadel, 304 Parliament St., Toronto, Ont.

Written by George F. Walker
Directed by Ken Gass
Lighting by Giuseppe Condello
Set by Ken Gass
Cast: Wes Berger
Sarah Murphy-Dyson

Bobby and Tina struggle to get by and deal with their various issues, including each other, in one of George F. Walker’s most affecting plays.

The Story. We’ve met Bobby and Tina before in the world of George F. Walker. We first meet them in TOUGH! when Tina was 19 and pregnant with Bobby’s child. Then two years later in Moss Park when Tina is pregnant again by Bobby, after one night of passion. And now in The Damage Done, 18 years later.

During the 18 years between Moss Park and The Damage Done Bobby and Tina marry briefly. Tina left him to pursue her dreams and better herself. She becomes a social worker. She marries a man who provides financial stability and a house in the suburbs. That marriage fails. There are other relationships that don’t last.

Bobby has not done as well. He drifts from job to job. He is now a fork-lift operator. He also wants to be a writer and has written some stuff on scraps of paper he keeps in his pants pocket. He has grappled with addiction. He has not been the most attentive father to his two daughters. He too has had a few tenuous relationships.

Tina has called Bobby to meet her in the park where they have met before when they had to talk about something important. She needs his help. Will he step up to the plate?

The Production. Ken Gass has created the set of a bench in a leaf-filled park. Suspended at the back is a bank of windows, one of which is broken. To the left of that is a garbage can half-filled with garbage. The set is spare but the design says everything about the place.

Bobby is the first to arrive. We see him standing on the bench, as he would have done when he was a teen. Tina arrives upstage. Bobby can’t see her because his back is to her as he faces us. She is agitated, uncertain and exits, quite ready to leave without talking to him. She comes back, still hesitant, but greets Bobby. He’s happy to see her. She’s still agitated. And angry. It’s not misplaced anger either. She’s probably been angry at him for a long time—for not being a better father; for not being more helpful to her in raising their daughters, for all sorts of things.

Director Ken Gass negotiates the two around the space and each other in a believable way suggesting this couple has a history; were once romantically involved but aren’t involved now. Gass doesn’t move a character for the sake of a movement. Bobby has only loved her. Tina is disappointed by him. It all comes out in the body language and staging.

While one can come to The Damage Done and appreciate it without having seen the previous two Walker plays that deal with Bobby and Tina from their teenage years to now, seeing the other two plays does give this relationship context. Tina has always been the smarter, calmer, and more thoughtful of the two. Bobby has always been flighty, not a deep thinker, simplistic. But in The Damage Done Tina is unhinged with doubt, worry and lack of confidence. The pressures of raising two daughters, coping with a failed marriage and her own doubts take its toll.

Sarah Murphy-Dyson’s performance as Tina is both angst and anger filled but with nuance so it’s definitely not one long rant. Tina is hanging on by a thread and she uses anger as a kind of defence mechanism to hold things together. Murphy-Dyson gives a very strong, compelling performance of a woman almost disintegrating in front of us.

Bobby, as played by Wes Berger, is a flighty man with a tenuous grasp of reality. He’s like a man-boy. He seems to drift through life with little ambition and a poor sense of responsibility. He seems aware of his lacking as a father but just can’t rise to the occasion. But when Tina comes to him, so distraught and so unlike her usual confident self, Bobby might have to step up to the plate.

There is a fine sense of cohesion between Wes Berger and Sarah Murphy-Dyson’s performances. You can believe they have been a couple off and on for more than 20 years.

Comment. The Damage Done is one of playwright George F. Walker’s most affecting plays. While in true Walker fashion his characters are angry, lash out, criticize and condemn, there is a fragility to them. Both Tina and Bobby are emotionally needy. I love that George F. Walker has not provided a neat ending, but that Ken Gass’s subtle direction of the last scene suggests that there is room for both Bobby and Tina to trust each other.

Presented by Canadian Rep Theatre.

Opened: Nov. 22, 2016.
Closes: Dec. 11, 2016.
Cast: 2; 1 man, 1 woman.
Running Time: 75 minutes.

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