BLOOD by Tom Walmsley, directed by Kate Lynch, with Randy Hughson and Jane Spidell. Presented by Theatre Passe Muraille at the Backspace (16 Ryerson). Runs to February 15, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $23-$32, Sunday pwyc-$16. 416-504-7529. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Watching actor Jane Spidell as prostitute junkie ex-con Noelle stand front and centre and address the audience on the tiny Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace stage is almost too much to take. The actor hides nothing. Her fear and vulnerability are raw, exposed. It's a thrilling performance, and the monologues she delivers at the beginning and end of Tom Walmsley 's wrenching two-hander Blood make up for any meandering in the script's middle.
Just released from jail and in need of some cash for a quick fix, Noelle is expecting a customer for a three-way when her brother Chris ( Randy Hughson ) shows up at her door. Will Chris, who's got some unfinished business with his sister, sleep with her so they can split the $500?
Walmsley lacks George F. Walker's skill with dialogue and ability to conjure up pictures. But his tragicomic tale creates its own universe of addiction and dysfunction. Sex, drugs and stories - the dead-eyed Noelle looks like she's heard every one in the book - are all an escape. Yet even at the bottom there's the chance for a bit of grace.
Not everything's spelled out about the characters' pasts, but Walmsley's writing is so suggestive - and Kate Lynch 's direction so taut - that you can imagine the horrors they grew up with. When Noelle and Chris tumble around - first playfully, then erotically, then violently and finally tenderly - you realize that theirs is a relationship that's not defined by words.
Spidell never talks down to her character, and Hughson matches her energy, although Chris's motivation is the script's biggest weakness.
John Thompson 's concrete-looking set suggests a prison, which is apropos. Walmsley's showing us two people who feel trapped by life and will do almost anything to get out.