EARSHOT by Morris Panych, directed by Jim Millan (Crow's Theatre). At Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman). Until April 9. $15-$30. See Continuing, page 89. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Morris Panych makes a career of writing plays featuring absurdly sensitive, quirky male characters, and actor Randy Hughson makes a career of playing them. Earshot marks Hughson's second Panych production this season at Tarragon Theatre , the same venue where he premiered this piece in 2001.
Hughson has a way of making Panych's characters seem like they were written with him in mind. Take Doyle, Earshot's protagonist. Cursed with hyper-acute hearing, Doyle spends his time inventing stories about his neighbours based on what he hears about their lives.
Isolated and alienated by his ability, Doyle fixates on details, on the unconscious things people do that no one, save for a lover, would notice.
It's the sweetness Hughson finds in lines like "I don't have inspiration to wear trousers" that makes Doyle work, delivering dry Panych lines while mincing back and forth across a surreal bedroom set on a raked stage in only his tighties. Hughson opens up Doyle's private experiences in the same way that Doyle opens up his neighbours' private lives, but for Doyle, privacy is all he has.
The play ends not with a bang but a burble, to paraphrase Doyle. The result is saccharine when you were primed to get something sour to suck on for the ride home. That doesn't spoil the intense netherworld of compulsion and loneliness that Hughson, under the direction of both Panych and Crow's Theatre 's Jim Millan , has created in only a little over an hour.