timberlake wertenbaker's our Country's Good takes on huge issues like the nature of art, government and freedom. Ambitious stuff, all beautifully presented by the young company Theatrefront.Set in a 1789 Australian penal colony, the play shows what happens when 10 young prisoners, dragged from England for their petty crimes, mount a play.
Surrounded by a troupe of soldiers, haunted by their pasts and unsure if their future consists of a noose, the prisoners struggle to overcome the harshness of their environment.
Wertenbaker's script gives each character history and depth, something director Daryl Cloran helps with clear staging. There's no sentimentality in sight and not a wasted word.
The young cast is impressive, but I loved Araxi Arslanian's broad Dickensian wench, Patricia Fagan's poised and dignified prisoner, Shane Carty's thesp, Molly Jane Atkinson's understated ingenue and -- in what's probably the most difficult part -- Craig Erickson as the conflicted lieutenant who directs the play-within-a-play.
The real standout, of course, is Cloran, who's done justice to a literate, smart script. Don't miss it. GS
OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD by Timberlake Wertenbaker, directed by Daryl Cloran, with Araxi Arslanian, Damien Atkins, Molly Jane Atkinson, Shane Carty, Craig Erickson, Patricia Fagan, Xuan Fraser, Andrew Pifko, Michel Protti, Aaron Franks and Danielle Wilson. Presented by Our Country's Good Co-op and Theatrefront at the Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman). Runs to January 28, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $16-$20, Sunday pwyc. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNNNCountry's great