THERAC 25 by Adam Pettle, directed by Jordan Pettle, with Adam Pettle and Patricia Fagan. Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst). Runs to May 26, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $18-$25, Sunday pwyc-$18. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
cancer blossoms like a fleur du mal in the human body. That's a scary fact of life. Less certain -- and far more delicate -- is the love that flowers in a hospital cancer ward in Therac 25.Adam Pettle's former SummerWorks hit returns to remind us how fine a writer Pettle was even in his first script, a two-hander involving Alan (Pettle) and Moira (Patricia Fagan), the most unlikely of partners. From that first mutual look of interest as they wait for their ongoing therapies, they're a couple destined to alternate between tentative offers of comfort and spiky retreat.
There's much that's inviting in director Jordan Pettle's production, beginning with his brother Adam's engaging performance, a winning combination of impish come-ons -- he uses humour to camouflage touchy emotions -- and self-deprecating shyness. Only in one episode, when his raw nerves are exposed, does his acting feel forced. Pettle's comic writing is genuinely funny, even when it's about masturbation and post-chemo vomiting, and never maudlin.
Fagan's Moira, though, doesn't offer him a strong complement. Hers is a competent performance, but it lacks the edge, the anger, that has to drive her character. She needs to give the gentler Alan both a barrier against which to crash and a bulwark against which he can seek comfort. Both Alan and the audience have to be more uncertain of Moira's constantly shifting moods, and without that subtext from Fagan bubbling beneath the surface, the production suffers. theatre reviews