A whistle in the dark by Tom Murphy, directed by Jason Byrne, with Oliver Becker, Sarah Dodd, Jonathan Goad, Allan Hawco, David Jansen, Aaron Poole, Philip Riccio and Joseph Ziegler. Presented by the Company Theatre at the Berkeley Street Theatre Upstairs (26 Berkeley). Runs to February 5, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Saturday 2 pm. $25, srs $18, youth $10, Monday pwyc. 416-368-3110. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
You can see why Allan Hawco and Philip Riccio , the two young male actors and co-artistic directors of the debuting Company Theatre , were attracted to Tom Murphy 's 1961 play A Whistle In The Dark .
There are lots of showy, macho roles for a group of youngish male actors who get to curse in Oirish accents and prowl around each other menacingly looking for fights. Exactly the sort of play to put on if you've been on the scene for a while, received some good notices in smaller roles but want to be taken seriously and show what you can do in a big way.
The gamble has paid off. Whistle is a disturbing, white-knuckle night at the theatre.
The Carney brothers, a group of emigré Irish boys, are making a name for themselves as low-level thugs in an English city. Holed up in the home of the eldest, Michael ( Jonathan Goad ), who has tried to break away from the family by marrying an English woman ( Sarah Dodd ) and working in a bank, the brood welcome the return of their father, DaDa ( Joseph Ziegler ) and the youngest, Des (Riccio).
Before you can say, "I'll have a pint of Guinness," the clan - spurred on by DaDa's skewed notions of pride - is planning to fight another emigré family, the Mulryans.
More than Harold Pinter's 1964 The Homecoming - a work it's often compared to - Whistle is full of bloodlust, making you see and feel the anger and confusion that's the basis of violence, whether domestic or global. The play's relevance in a time of war - notions like fairness and courage are tossed around - is apt but not overbearing.
Director Jason Byrne , of Dublin's Loose Cannon Theatre, carefully ratchets up the tension, allowing lots of dark laughs along the way to the inevitable conclusion. And in one of the widest, most difficult-to-stage theatres, John Thompson 's set draws our attention to the drama, while giving us glimpses of shadowy movement on the sidelines.
The actors do terrific work marking out where their particular brother fits in the Carney pecking order, while David Jansen provides some comic relief as an outsider who enters the fray, and Dodd does the most with her thankless role as Michael's put-upon wife.
But the night belongs to Ziegler as the vain, defensive patriarch who retreats into a fantasy world of song and bravado rather than face his own troubling truths.