THE DRAWER BOY by Michael Healey, directed by Ruth Madoc-Jones (Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson). To November 18. Pwyc-$35. 416-504-7529. Rating: NNNN
Canadian theatre, like our architecture, is relatively young. So best to make sure that works we deem potential classics - as Michael Healey's The Drawer Boy was so described by myself and others after its 1999 debut at Theatre Passe Muraille - hold up.
No problem there. As proven in this remount, marking the 40th anniversary of TPM, the structure and the parts of the play are sturdy, no matter who might walk through its doors.
Healey's three-hander is set in and around the Ontario farm home of Angus (Randy Hughson) and Morgan (John Jarvis), two bachelor farmers who have been friends forever and fought during the Second World War, when Angus received an injury that has caused him to lose his short-term memory for some three decades.
When Toronto actor Miles (Frank Cox-O'Connell) knocks on their door to research a play he's working on - very similar to Passe Muraille's historic Farm Show - he upsets the balance between the two men and causes the normally placid Angus (that name is no coincidence) to start remembering more of his mysterious past.
Healey's script remains a marvel. The dialogue is spare but rich with detail, and the droll one-liners - particularly about the rural vs. city split - are nicely balanced by a rich well of emotion.
Director Ruth Madoc-Jones has cast the two farmers a good decade or so younger than the originals. As a result, there's less poignancy in the stage picture of the two men living together. She's also somehow made their bond more physical, perhaps hinting, with the touch to the face or shoulder, at a homoerotic subtext or simply the need for physical affection.
Hughson brings lots of of warmth, spontaneity and a bit of danger to his boy-man, while Jarvis, in the more difficult yet less showy role, suggests a lifetime of guilt and anger buried beneath diligent hard work.
Cox-O'Connell, unfortunately, doesn't get a grasp on his character, particularly in the darker second half.
The production design, despite the occasionally confusing lighting cue and a radio clip at the top of the show that could have provided a fitting ongoing motif, serves the work well. If you missed the show before, don't miss it now.