David Fox (centre) and company get up to some pretty good Mischief.
NO GREAT MISCHIEF by David S. Young, adapted from novel by Alistair MacLeod (Tarragon, 30 Bridgman). To October 21. $21-$53, some $13 rush Fri and Sun. 416-531-1827. See listing. Rating: NNN
Adapting a novel for the stage can be tricky. How do you capture the essence of a book and make it theatrical - more than a glorified literary reading?
Despite a somewhat disorienting first act, David S. Young's script and Richard Rose's direction largely succeed in translating the complex web of narratives and characters in Alistair MacLeod's award-winning novel No Great Mischief.
We first meet the Cape Breton-born Macdonald brothers when Alexander (R.H. Thomson), a respectable Windsor dentist and the show's narrator, visits the alcoholic Calum (David Fox) in a Toronto rooming house.
Over the course of the play, the two dredge up memories that have haunted them their entire lives, like their parents' deaths, their subsequent separate upbringings and a brutal incident in a mine.
Initially, the sheer number of tales - many involving the brothers' ancestors - overwhelms. But Rose and composer Mike Ross use songs to provide lots of atmosphere (some of the harmonies are spine-chilling), while Graeme S. Thomson's lighting is also effective, particularly in a scene where miners emerge into daylight. And the use of six other actors helps bring the complex family tree to raucous life.
There's lots of comedy, thanks mostly to John Dolan's happy-go-lucky Grandpa, who contrasts with the boys' Serious Grandfather (J.D. Nicholsen). Nicola Lipman adds much-needed heart as the play's sole female presence.
But it's Thomson and Fox who are at the centre of this show, skilfully playing their characters at various ages and stages and showing that forgiveness and love can help mend even the most strained family bonds.