Xuan Fraser and Stéphanie Broschart
TORONTO THE GOOD by Andrew Moodie, directed by Philip Akin. Presented by the Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst). Runs to March 1, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $20-$37. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNN
Toronto The Good is pretty good, but misses out on being great.
Andrew Moodie's latest takes on nothing less than race and justice, issues that begin heating up after a black teen named Solomon (Marcel Stewart) is pulled over late one weeknight in clubland by a police officer (Sandra Forsell) who then discovers he's carrying a gun.
Was it a case of racial profiling? Solomon's white defence attorney, Simon (Brian Marler), thinks so. The issue gets more complex because the Crown attorney prosecuting the case, Thomas Matthews (Xuan Fraser), is black and doesn't buy into the theory. When the teen gets involved in further violence, the issues - and the city - are in danger of exploding.
Moodie shows great empathy for all his characters, and there are lots here, including Thomas's white, Franco-Ontarian wife, Almanda (Stéphanie Broschart), who's about to have their first child, and some of the inner-city kids in her English class.
Monologues take us into all these characters' minds and give us a sense of their backstory but occasionally feel contrived. The best scenes come from confrontations between two characters, and in these the writing is layered and tense. A line like "It's Thomas, not Tom" (spoken by Thomas to Simon) can spark with meaning. A line about the city's reaction to the Jane Creba shooting delivers its point with chilling power.
It's to Moodie's credit that this is no mere courtroom drama or legal procedural. He's aiming for more, successfully capturing Toronto's feel and energy, even using the real names of politicians and media types, including NOW's own news guy, Enzo Di Matteo.
At times you wish Moodie had narrowed his focus a bit, or a more ruthless dramaturge had stepped in. Solomon's only introduced a third of the way in, and the Thomas/Almanda relationship doesn't feel as authentic as it could - they're less like a couple than mouthpieces for the writer's ideas. Occasionally, characters explode into rants that feel like an attempt to cram everything in.
Also underdeveloped is a key change in Thomas's thinking about racial profiling. One minute he doesn't believe in it, the next he does. There seems to be a step missing to help us understand why.
The performers do a good job slipping into and out of various characters, often in mere seconds. Forsell is especially good as the hard-to-read cop, and Miranda Edwards shows great range as the defendant's sister, an ambitious black reporter and a savvy call girl. And Fraser anchors the work with suitable gravity and complexity.
The action is fluid under Philip Akin's direction, but Kelly Wolf's set, dominated by the image of a child's playground, fails to resonate. Children are an obvious symbol in the play, but there's something ham-fisted about the way they're used here.