Boy In The Moon is moving, despite its theatrical flaws

THE BOY IN THE MOON by Emil Sher, based on the book by Ian Brown (Crows Theatre). At Streetcar Crowsnest.

THE BOY IN THE MOON by Emil Sher, based on the book by Ian Brown (Crows Theatre). At Streetcar Crowsnest (345 Carlaw). Runs to May 27. $20-$40. See listing. Rating: NNN

Ian Browns memoir of life with his son, who has a rare genetic disorder Cardiofaciocutaneous (CFC) syndrome is a moving story. It evokes the pain and beauty of having a child with a disability and what that brings to family dynamics, and it asks important questions about love, human strength and frailty.

The content is so strong that its easy to forgive the flaws in Emil Shers adaptation for Crows Theatre. The show succeeds because of its superb performances and in spite of problems with the Crowsnest space.

To give Sher credit, he realized that he needed supplementary interviews with Browns wife, Johanna Schneller, and their daughter, Haley. Schneller has more voice in the piece, although Haley remains, unfortunately, underwritten. And some of the text is gobsmackingly good.

Sher makes the right choice to begin the same way Brown does, with a harrowing monologue describing a typical night with his self-harming son, Walker. But then the script relies too much on monologues, especially strange since the most successful elements of the play feature Ian and Johanna in conversation. I wish Sher had brought more new approaches to the material.

David Storch is wonderful as Brown, all wound up and ever on the move. He gives you the sense that he feels a little guilty about his occasional jokes through just a shrug or a small smile. Lisa Repo-Martell gives depth to Schneller, playing her slightly hunched over throughout as if carrying an immense burden. Kelly McNamee drifts in and out playing their daughter Haley and other characters, notably members of the not very helpful medical team who patronize the parents.

But this is an intimate piece not suited for the Crowsnest space, and director Chris Abraham cant solve the problem. At points where Brown and Schneller are arguing or feeling alienated from one another, he puts them at opposite ends of the vast stage, which makes it hard for the audience to focus. And showing Haley ballet dancing is supposed to highlight her physical ability but it just gets distracting.

Shannon Lea Doyles design doesnt help. Theres a flourishing garden barely visible at the far end of the set, but Im not sure why its there. And a door at the back through which McNamees characters enter and exit reveals murky images behind it when its closed that make little sense. The set element may have revealed something important were it not so small.

But The Boy In The Moons text is often gripping, the ideas inspiring and Repo-Martell and Storch are a twin revelation. See it for those reasons. But dont expect a great play.

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