ZADIE'S SHOES by Adam Pettle, directed by Jackie Maxwell, with Jordan Pettle, Kelli Fox, Paul Soles, Paul Essiembre, Torri Higginson, Randy Hughson and Juno Mills-Cockell. Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst). Previews through Sunday (January 7), opens Tuesday (January 9) and runs to February 4, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday 4 pm and Sunday 2 pm. $20-$28, Sunday pwyc. Rating: NNNNN
there's something comfortable about Zadie's Shoes, Adam Pettle's dark comedy about a gambling man struggling to win the money to get his girlfriend the health treatment she needs. That comfort factor has to do with the family connection.Pettle's first play, Therac 25, featured the young actor and was directed by his brother Jordan Pettle, better known as a performer.
Now, three years later, Adam has followed his older sibling's path by attending the National Theatre School, and his latest Toronto production, Zadie's Shoes, features Jordan as the riskaholic Benjamin.
"I know that when Adam wrote the piece, he was thinking of me for the part," offers Jordan during a rehearsal break. "And it's strange now in the rehearsal hall, where part of me wants to be the protective older brother who worries about problematic moments in the script. The actor in me, though, says just do the work -- he's responsible as the writer, not me."
Jordan's done the Stratford thing for four seasons, including a marvellous Fool in King Lear, and turned the tables on the Bard by performing not Petruchio but, rather, Kate last summer in Canadian Stage's Shrew. He's just finished playing the angry Krogstad in DVxT Theatre's The Doll House.
"Actually, I think contemporary plays suit me better," he admits. "My inner rhythms, the way my mind works, with half thoughts, suits a piece like Zadie's Shoes. And the irony and wit of Benjamin -- a self-deprecating kind of humour, sometimes angry, sometimes warm -- comes out easily."
Does he notice a development in his brother's writing over the years? Others are evidently impressed. Adam is one of several writers co-commissioned by Canadian Stage and Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre to create a new work.
"His sense of dramatic structure, of storytelling, has evolved. The rhythms are more sophisticated compared to the rawness of Therac 25. Adam's still an intuitive writer, but his training has made him adept at crafting scenes and revealing character through action.
"Benjamin lacks a personal faith of any kind, and he can't find it until he confronts his own deep problems. He looks to others to give him faith in himself, and that's not possible.
"At a basic level, the play is about faith -- in religion, the family and at the race track."