EARSHOT written and directed by Morris Panych, with Randy Hughson. Presented by Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman) at the Tarragon Extra Space. Runs to March 18, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $19-$24, Sunday pwyc. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNNNfor its first half-hour, morris Panych's Earshot comes dangerously close to being one of those precious one-handers that sounds good on paper but feels tiresome in performance.
It's about down-and-out Doyle (Randy Hughson), whose sense of hearing is so sharp that he can detect everything around him.
Panych gives us lots of aural details, Hughson mouths one one-liner after another and Derek Bruce's sound design evokes everything from the clackety-clack of a typewriter to a widow asking for her dead husband. Fine, but few surprises.
Soon enough, though, we're shown glimpses of Doyle's disturbed past and his present dreams, so what starts off as a gimmick-driven play becomes a moving look at the hopes and heartbreaks of the world.
The script is literate without being pretentious, the complicated Doyle suggesting everything from a hypersensitive Poe narrator to a Kafka antihero. There's a real sense of a world coming alive as we imagine dentures clicking together, a pin dropping through air and, mostly, what it's like to be in the hypersensitive skin of a paranoid misfit who's still capable of one act of kindness.
Clad in a sad collection of greying underwear, Hughson modulates his performance so we're initially repelled by and then drawn into his character's fears.
Ken McDonald's set -- call it Alice In The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari -- and Bruce's sound design initially overwhelm, but by the end everything's integrated into a disquieting look at the human condition.