SMOKESCREEN by David S. Craig, directed by Ed Roy (Roseneath Theatre) and BORN READY by Joseph Jomo Pierre, directed by Philip Akin (Obsidian Theatre Company). At Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson). To March 9. $15-$30. 416-504-7529. Rating: NNN
When it comes to creating outreach theatre geared at teens, you can’t get subjects more topical in this city than drugs and guns.
The double bill at Theatre Passe Muraille addresses these issues in plays by David S. Craig and Joseph Jomo Pierre. Craig’s Smokescreen attempts to shed some light on the hazy subject of chronic cannabis use, while Born Ready explores the pathologies of gun violence through the lens of Pierre’s poetic, hiphop-inflected prose. What surprises, given the subject matter, is that the first proves the more compelling of the two.
Cara Ricketts and Joseph Jomo Pierre play in Born Ready.
Fast-talking, pothead Trent (Andrew Craig) seems to have it pretty good until dealing dope lands him in the hands of community care worker Rayzee (Soo Garay) and in trouble with the law. Dad Jeff (John Evans) wants to help, but all he can do is yell.
What on the surface sounds like a school board-endorsed thou-shalt-not tale about the perils of chronic toking turns out to be a moving and thought-provoking piece. The playwright refuses to take the moral high road, posing questions about what constitutes drug use and addiction (Starbucks, chronic lipgloss application?) through Trent’s savvy eyes.
If there’s a flaw, it’s that in Trent, the writer and actor have created a pothead so savvy that he almost obscures our ability to see the tragedy of the situation. Jeff is watching his son’s personality melt away in front of his very eyes.
In Born Ready, Scarborough teens Blackman (Joseph Jomo Pierre) and B-Side (Showmari Downer) aren’t so much the agents of their own undoing as are the social forces that surround them. As the young men deliver interchanging monologues they build pictures of their lives from childhood on up. The social milieu in which they live – Glocks, dead parents, pressure to fit in with the crowd you run with – slowly forms.
Pierre is a linguistic virtuoso and his ability to paint scenes from his characters’ youths astounds. But while their monologues contain great scenes, they fail to build a picture of who these men really are and why we as the audience should feel emotionally moved by their fates.