LEAVING HOME by David French, directed by Ted Dykstra (Soulpepper). At the Young Centre (55 Mill). To June 16. $5-$59. 416-866-8666. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Set in the 50s, leaving home is classic Canadiana, replete with Newfoundland accents, jigs and whiskey-fuelled rants.
It's also a study in unbridgeable generation gaps and the ways in which one unhappy working-class family pushes away its strongest, most beloved member.
The tension of this domestic drama hangs not on the question of "if," but rather on "how much" ill will and violence it will take to ruin the already tenuous relationship between a father and his first-born son.
When young Billy Mercer ( Anthony Johnston ) impregnates his girlfriend, Kathy (played by Martha MacIsaac ), his older brother ( Jeff Lillico ) seizes the opportunity to leave the family along with his younger brother. Ben, who finds solace in university life, uses his brother's sexual misstep to escape the haranguing of his father, Jacob ( Kenneth Welsh ).
Lillico delivers a solid and believable performance as a favourite son caught between the desire to heal the rift in his paternal relationship and to free himself from his oppressive father. Lillico's palpable torment, along with Diane D'Aquila 's commanding performance as the family matriarch, Mary Mercer, admirably holds the production together.
Director Ted Dykstra undermines the play's naturalism with unnatural blocking; some actors face the audience and ham it up for one-liners.
There's also little nuance or depth to Welsh's Jacob. His steady raving could be tempered with other emotions, and because the actor sputters much of the time, it's hard to understand what he's saying, let alone feel sympathy for him.