By George, Martha Burns and Peter Donaldson are good!
AND SO IT GOES by George F. Walker (Factory, 125 Bathurst). Runs to February 28. Pwyc-$35. 416-504-9971. See listings. Rating: NNNN
Using mental illness as a metaphor for a sick society is tricky, but if anyone can pull it off, it's George F. Walker. And So It Goes, his first play in more than a decade, is worth the wait.[rssbreak]
Walker grips us from the start, when Karen (Jenny Young), a young schizophrenic woman, nervously paces in front of the window, convinced a man is trying to steal the family car. Her father, Ned (Peter Donaldson), eventually deals with the situation, but it turns out the car's being repossessed. Ned's job has been downsized, and soon his life with wife Gwen (Martha Burns) and the unstable Karen begins to collapse.
Gwen, meanwhile, isn't entirely stable herself. She's prone to talking her imagined version of novelist Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (Jerry Franken), who acts like an absurd counsellor to the other characters.
The script's looser than many of Walker's other plays, and I wish a few scenes probed a bit deeper into the characters' lives. There's more anger than love here, to borrow from one of his previous titles.
But Walker's dialogue is sharp, and his depiction of an upside-down economic and psychological world hits us with brutal tragicomic force.
One of the few writers who are good at directing their own plays, Walker gets fine work from his actors. Young conveys her character's paranoia and fear with fury, delivering a different side in the second act. As the parents, Donaldson and Burns get to take different journeys - he mellow and complacent at the start, a potential Dirty Harry figure by the end; she tense and tight-lipped at the beginning, stoic and resigned in the final scenes.
The world premiere production looks great, but Shawn Kerwin's set deserves special mention. It suggests a mini timeline of great works of visual art chipped away by time or neglect, side by side with the typical urban landscape of old handbills and posters.
Welcome back to Walker town.