Tony Craig gives Unconditional power to his role as a fired airline worker
UNCONDITIONAL by Brett C. Leonard (Column 13). At Dancemakers Theatre (55 Mill). To November 29. Rating: NNN
Column 13 has introduced Toronto audiences to several edgy plays by American playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis. There's a similar edge to Unconditional, the work of another American, Brett C. Leonard, but its mix of volatile characters and gritty dialogue isn't as theatrically powerful.
Leonard's characters are mostly paired, usually in racially mixed couples, and nearly all of them are unhappy. These emotionally needy figures interweave in sexual couplings that are sometimes violent and abusive. It's a contemporary New York version of Scenes From A Marriage And An Affair.
The racial element is as strong as the sexual, beginning with Newton (Tony Craig), a black airline worker fired just as he's approaching retirement (and pension). He accuses his new boss Daniel (Brandon Thomas) of firing him for ethnic and financial reasons.
Angry and depressed, Newton drives his anguished wife, Tracie (Jacqueline Skeete), into the arms of the unhappily married Gary (Jonah Allison), whose wife, Lotty (Babs Hopkinson), takes up with Keith (Christian McKenna), a petty crook she meets at a bar.
And so on, as characters tie up like threads in a tapestry of murder and broken relationships.
Leonard, touching on these figures too briefly, fails to involve us strongly in their outsized emotions, and director Jim Gilbert plays out the scenes on such a large stage and with such slow scene changes that the links between people become even more tenuous.
Still, a number of the actors fully inhabit their roles, among them Craig, McKenna, Hopkinson, Thomas and Jennifer McEwen as Tracie's angry motormouth friend Jessica, looking for the love of her life.
Column 13's also staging a late-night production of Clifford Odets's Waiting For Lefty.