REMNANTS by Jason Sherman, directed by Richard Rose, with Dmitry Chepovetsky, Victor Ertmanis, Jerry Franken, Kyle Horton, Jason Jazrawy, Alon Nashman and Alex Poch-Goldin. Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman). Runs to October 26, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $26-$32, Sunday pwyc-$15. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Jason Sherman does some clever tailoring to update the biblical tale of Joseph and his brothers into a 20th-century story of betrayal and forgiveness, but the stitching together of individual scenes isn't always neat nor the finished garment quite ready to wear. Sherman's Joseph Dubczanski ( Dmitry Chepovetsky ) is the best-loved son of a tyrannical clothier in 1920s Poland, disliked and abused by his jealous brothers. Shipped off by them to Canada, he becomes Joseph Taylor and - through his ability to foresee some future events - an adviser to Mackenzie King. Later, in the 30s, when his brothers seek refugee status in Canada, he has the chance to avenge himself.
There's a fine story here, told in Sherman's typically entertaining style, but it needs further development. There's so much plot to get out in the first act that we don't know much about or feel anything for the characters until King enters, nearly an hour into the show.
Even then, the Canadian politician (a strong performance by Victor Ertmanis ) seems more movingly paternal than Jacob does, despite Jerry Franken 's well-crafted work in the latter role. Which is the more moving relationship is a potentially fascinating point, but like a number of other elements in the script - King's anti-Semitism, the character of the mute Benjamin ( Kyle Horton ), what's happening to the Jews in Poland - it's not yet fully evolved.
More successful than the first, the second act does a better job of involving the audience in the characters' emotions, especially in a marvellously touching reunion scene between Joseph and his siblings. Chepovetsky shows us the pain in Joseph's transformation from nervous, pigeon-toed victim to potential oppressor, while Alex Poch-Goldin burns the stage with Judah's cynical anger and Jason Jazrawy and Alon Nashman change chameleon-like into characters nice or nasty.
Director Richard Rose , using Graeme Thomson 's lighting and a set composed of trunks and suitcases, stages Remnants with authoritative theatricality. Too bad we didn't see the script a few revisions further along.