NUMBER ONE AND JAMIE by Paula Wing, directed by Micheline Chevrier, with Robin Craig, Deborah Drakeford, Keir Gilchrist, Demetrios Matthews and Harve Sokoloff. Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People (165 Front East). Runs to May 9, Saturday 2 and 7 pm, Sunday 3 pm. $18-$28. 416-862-2222. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Childhood fears develop a life of their own in Number One And Jamie . The key strength of Paula Wing 's script is that it's told from the viewpoint of 10-year-old Jamie ( Keir Gilchrist ), who even worries about walking several dozen steps between the front door of his apartment and the building's outer door. Wing populates Jamie's world with real people as well as mysterious, faceless figures in overcoats and fedoras. He's not reassured by having to deal with a demanding, wheelchair-bound landlady ( Robin Craig ), a fellow tenant ( Harve Sokoloff ) who constantly accuses Jamie of wrongdoing, a new school friend ( Demetrios Matthews ) who's sometimes sharp-edged, and a mother ( Deborah Drakeford ) who keeps telling him that everything's all right when it's clearly not.
They all, as Jamie comes to realize, have their own fears. Not all the characters are equally well drawn, though, and some aspects of the plot feel undeveloped or unfinished. Craig's gravel-voiced, not-so-witchlike landlady with a propensity for Dick Tracy detection, and Drakeford's parenting-book-quoting mother upset by a rocky marriage are the most detailed characters. They're also delightfully played under Micheline Chevrier 's direction.
As Jamie, Gilchrist is a natural performer, easily convincing us that he's a regular kid with all the anxieties and game-playing facilities - some for self-protection - that are part of growing up. At times talking about himself in the second person, as if to distance himself from his fears, he's someone we've all known or been.