by Lynn on April 12, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto, Ont..


Written by Johnnie Walker

Directed by Tom Arthur Davis

Set and costumes by Anahita Dehbonehie

Lighting by Rebecca Vandevelde

Sound by Jivesh Parasram

Cast: Daniel Carter

Willard Gillard

Kwaku Okyere

Craig Pike

Heath V Salazar

Johnnie Walker

Anders Yates

A fascinating story presented as a mystery to be solved, in a production that is incomprehensible, self-indulgent and leaves any thought of solving the mystery almost as an afterthought. Unforgivable considering the talent involved.

A Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and Pandemic Theatre co-production.

The Story. Johnnie Walker, theatre artist extraordinaire, read a newspaper item a few years ago about Luke O’Donovan who went to a party; was gay-bashed; defended himself by stabbing one of his attackers and was tried, convicted and imprisoned while the attackers were set free.

Walker was intrigued by that story. Why were the attackers set free? He wrote to O’Donovan who replied. He visited him and gleaned more information as well as realizing how complex the story was. And in true Walker-theatre-artist-extraordinaire form, decided to do a play about it.

The Production. Johnnie Walker appears in front of an impressive stage curtain and greets the audience with great charm. He talks of the ice-bucket challenge for ALS, where people doused themselves with a bucket of ice-water as part of a fund-raiser for ALS research. He then says that that initiative earned several millions of dollars. Instead of doing that initiative he was going to put his money into the case to free O’Donovan from prison. Walker tells us the story of what happened to O’Donovan at the party as well as he can given the shifting, changing story.

Then he parts the curtain to reveal the backstage dressing room in Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in which the walls are plastered with posters of past shows and perhaps other memorabilia. Kudos to designer Anahita Dehbonehie for her always detailed set. Also revealed is the group of performers who will help Walker explore the many questions he has on the case.

Walker pouring ice-water over his head to repeat the challenge and then changing his clothes and talking more,  certainly is a very long, winding and unnecessary way to begin a show.

Walker presents the case to his colleagues and then begins a process of exploring questions, role-playing, dancing, joshing, getting off topic, suggesting many and various ways of looking for the truth, and generally doing what should have been done in the rehearsal hall to discover and shape the play so that it was audience-ready. Whatever one wants to call this, it’s not a play; a question wasn’t answered or a problem solved or the truth found and it’s not audience-ready. At one point Walker tantalizingly tells us that O’Donovan told him everything that happened. One of the many problems with this production, is that Walker never actually tells us. Why else are we in the room?

Of the seven performers, only Johnnie Walker and Craig Pike create anything close to a character who has depth or interest in the search for the truth. The other performers are doing variations on themes of stereotypical gay behavior and give no sense that they care about what Walker is trying to discover.

Tom Arthur Davis is generally a thoughtful, intelligent director. I’ve liked his work elsewhere. I have no idea what he is going for in this meandering, unfocused, self-absorbed work.

Comment. Really, two hours and thirty minutes long? REALLY? Lots of self-indulgence here instead of rigor to present the truest, clearest work. The fact that I have great respect for Johnnie Walker’s work and that of Craig Pike saves this from getting the “Red Face of Fury.”  

Began: March 30, 2019

Closes: April 14, 2019

Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.