Michael Healey’s Courageous gamble

COURAGEOUS by Michael Healey, directed by Richard Rose (Tarragon, 30 Bridgman). Runs to February 7. $10-$38. 416-531-1827. See Continuing. Rating: NNN

Give Michael Healey credit. The characters in Courageous may not be fully formed, but they’re involved in some heady, timely issues – freedom, justice and fairness – all explored with his usual wit.[rssbreak]

Courageous is essentially two plays. The tighter first half concerns a male couple (Patrick Galligan, Tom Rooney) whose plans to get married are thwarted when the justice of the peace (Tom Barnett), Tom, a devout Catholic, refuses to perform the ceremony.

What’s ironic is that Tom also happens to be gay, and his partner (Maurice Dean Wint), an immigrant to Canada, happens to have slept with one of the men. Many ethical dilemmas ensue.

The second half takes several peripheral characters from the first and explores what happens when a young man (Brandon McGibbon) sees his immigrant neighbour (Wint again), helped by government assistance (and hard work), achieve all the goals he himself can’t reach.

These are all hot-button topics, and Healey finds unusual ways to dramatize them.

Having McGibbon’s Todd narrate the second half, however, is a gamble that doesn’t always pay off. There’s something patronizing about his approach to Todd’s “what the fuck?” philosophy. And from a dramatic point of view, it’s hard to make a passive narrator exciting.

Director Richard Rose tries hard to keep the tension high throughout, especially in the powerful showdown between Galligan and Barnett.

Wint’s two characters contrast beautifully – physically as well as vocally – and Rooney uses understatement to maximum effect.

David Boechler’s shifting, moveable set helps establish the play’s many locales with ease. The between-scenes excerpts from Leonard Cohen’s Bird On A Wire, however, don’t quite feel earned.

A smart, flawed experiment.

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