by Lynn on November 7, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

Two by George F. Walker at the Assembly, Toronto, Ont.

Kill The Poor

Directed by Wes Berger

Set by Chris Bretecher

Lighting by Chin Palipane

Costumes by Kathleen Black

Sound by Jeremy Hutton and Will Jarvis

Cast: Al Bernstein

Chandra Galasso

Craig Henderson

Ron Lea

Anne van Leeuwen

Welcome to the scrappy, hard world of George F. Walker and his characters trying to get by.

The Story. Lacey comes home from the hospital limping, bruised and her arm in a sling. She was in a car accident. Her brother died as a result. Who was driving the car? Lacey or her brother? Lacey can’t remember. Who charged into the intersection against the light? The other guy, Mr. David or the siblings? The police are investigating. Annie (the cop) tries to help Lacey remember.  One day Lacey gets a visit from Mr. David with a tantalizing offer. What is going on? Welcome to the world of George F. Walker.

The Production. Chris Bretecher has designed a shabby, spare and functioning small apartment. There are stains on the walls. Harry superintendent (a wonderfully irreverent and sparky Ron Lea) comes to repair the toilet. He berates Lacey (Anne van Leeuwen) and her mechanic/drug dealing husband Jake (Craig Henderson) for leaving the door unlocked. Unsavory people live in the building especially the neighbourhood drug dealer.

Wes Berger directs with a sure hand. He’s a stalwart of George F. Walker plays and know their rhythms, the world and the grunge of it.  The cast is strong lead by a feisty, angry Anne van Leeuwen as Lacey. If there is a quibble it’s that Walker has written her at about level 9, always raging (it’s probably all that pain from the injuries) and so there is no where for her to go in moments of frustration but level 10 and beyond. It can seem like she’s playing the same note although there is nuance in van Leeuwen’s body language. Al Bernstein as Mr. David is quietly threatening. Craig Henderson as Jake her husband is a bit dim, sweet, and limited in his abilities to make a living. Chandra Galasso as Annie the cop is tough and accommodating trying to help Lacey find her way out of the mess.

Comment. Once again George F. Walker champions the marginalized who are just trying to make it through the day under tough circumstances. They skirt the law for a bit of equality in their unequal world.

Presented by Leroy Street Theatre.

Opened: Nov. 2, 2018.

Closes: Nov. 18, 2018.

Running Time: about 75 minutes each with a 20 minute intermission.


Her Inside Life

Directed by Andrea Wasserman

Set by Chris Bretecher

Lighting by Chin Palipane

Costumes by Kathleen Black

Sound by Jeremy Hutton and Will Jarvis

Cast: Catherin Fitch

Tony Munch

Sarah Murphy-Dyson

Lesley Robertson

The mentally challenged is another character that George F. Walker champions against a system that seems stacked against them. Dandy cast again and a production that realizes the twists and turns in this very funny, yet serious play.

The Story. Violet is just out of prison for killing her husband. She feels she was innocent and she just happened to have a knife in her hand when she killed him because he was abusive. Her case worker Cathy tries to control the situation with the flighty and easily excitable Violet. Then there is Maddy, Violet’s daughter who has her own problems, and Leo her angry brother-in-law. Lots of volatile people just trying to make it  through the day in one piece. Just one more facet of the world of George F. Walker.

The Production. We are in the same apartment building as in Kill The Poor.  For this apartment Chris Bretecher has designed a neat, bright, clean apartment, with better looking furniture (really the shabby furniture from before, only now there is a smart covering hiding the shabbiness). The window coverings are better too.

Violet (a wonderfully tightly wound Catherine Fitch) can’t stand loud, prolonged noise, especially the one that is bedeviling her now—a piercing fire alarm. She knows she should leave the apartment but can’t make the decision. Her case worker Cathy (a calm but concerned Sarah Murphy-Dyson) arrives and urges Violet to leave. Agitation in various guises inform George F. Walker’s characters here. Maddy, Violet’s daughter (played by Lesley Robertson with controlled calm, but you can see the cracks) tries to support her mother. But at stake in one instance is whether or not Violet can see her grandchildren (Maddy’s and her husband’s, and the husband is being difficult).  Violet’s anger and her tendency to violence are always simmering. Her next target is her brow-beaten brother-in-law Leo, given a wonderfully crazed performance by Tony Munch. Leo also has his issues—he was bullied by his brother, now dead because Violet killed him.

Andrea Wasserman directs a clear production full of subtleties as well as the full-blown instances of “Walker-behaviour.” The energy and emotion builds gradually and gains momentum and leaves you breathless at the end.

Comment. The mentally challenged is another subject for George F. Walker’s sharp focus. He has compassion for their plight and creates the impossible world they live in as  they try to cope. Walker never judges them except tangentially as we see the political, social and medical systems these mentally challenged people have to negotiate. It’s a coup that these two small companies, Leroy Street Theatre and LowRise Production,  are the beneficiaries of two new George F. Walker world premiers.

An aside: The turn over from one set to another between these two short plays was very tight. Marvin Araneta, the stage manager for Kill the Poor had to quickly strip the furniture, change the curtains, clear the kitchen and re-arrange the table so that Jenna Borsato, the stage manager for Her Inside Life could do her set up. They helped each other. Araneta was working so fast he had to wipe sweat off the back of his neck with a cloth. Borsato opened cans of soup and beef stew and put them in pots ready for their scenes on Her Inside Life. All was done calmly and efficiently. It seemed like a lot of soup and thought that there were only two bowls on a shelf—not enough for all that soup. I commented to Borsato (I was the only one in the small theatre—the rest were out in the lobby) about the two bowls. In true theatre fashion, she smiled and told me to see how it all turned out. I finally realized she didn’t add water so there was enough for two bowls of soup and stew.

During this time the cast from Kill the Poor was leaving. Then Ron Lea and Craig Henderson (from the cast of the show) helped take a large table out of the theatre from Kill the Poor and then brought another large table back into the theatre for Her Inside Life. As the cast for Her Inside Life walked down the steps of the theatre to cross the stage and prepare for their show, Ron Lea, standing at the bottom of the stairs, took the hand of each of the three actresses and kissed it and hugged Tony Munch for luck for their shows and then left. God I love the camaraderie, the open-hearted generosity and the pluck to get the job done of theatre making folks.

Presented by LowRise Productions:

Opened: Nov. 2, 2018.

Closes: Nov. 18, 2018.

Running Time: about 75 minutes each with a 20 minute intermission.


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