FERAL CHILD by Jordan Tannahill (Suburban Beast). At Canadian Stage Rehear sal Hall (26 Berkeley). To September 22. $17-$22. 416-368-3110. See listing. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
This two-hander from up-and-coming Toronto writer/director Jordan Tannahill is an exercise in slow-building tension, a dark subdivision horror story that shows even the most sheltered lives harbour grim secrets.
The story begins when Jeremy (William Christopher Ellis), an intelligent but chronically bored teenager, comes home early from school and encounters Adrijana (Cynthia Ashperger), his family's highly educated middle-aged housekeeper and a Bosnian refugee. Awkward small talk becomes loaded, and Jeremy reveals his belief that Adrijana is spying on him and leaving him hidden messages throughout the house.
Through some long, silent scenes at the start, Tannahill establishes the everyday monotony of life in the suburbs while subtly suggesting that something is amiss. This patient approach is spot on, and stretching out the low-level tension fosters an insidious kind of suspense that he wisely rides for two-thirds of the 75-minute play.
Things slip only slightly when the action switches from tense to intense. The relationship between the characters is more intriguing when they're engaged in a veiled battle of wits or slyly unravelling their months-long non-verbal conversation. Without giving away too much, Tannahill's story is best served when he's holding back; once the gloves come off, his characters overstate some revelations we've already twigged to through much spookier implication and intuition.
That said, Tannahill's mystery is a good one, and while he's not quite on par with the master strokes of George F. Walker and Wajdi Mouawad just yet, he's certainly on his way.