THE REAL McCOY written and directed by Andrew Moodie (Factory). At the Factory Mainspace. To February 26. $25-$35, stu/srs discounts. See Continuing Listings for details. 416-504-9971, www.factorytheatre.com. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Andrew Moodie jokingly claim that he only writes plays when his acting career isn't going well. I hope he's okay with that, because his plays - among them Riot and Oui, and now The Real McCoy - are first-rate.
Based loosely on the known details of the life of African-Canadian inventor Elijah McCoy ( Maurice Dean Wint ) and set during the 1880s and 90s in Lincoln's America, The Real McCoy is a thoughtful yet quickly paced examination of the man who became "the real McCoy" behind the term.
Moodie structures the piece like most memory plays, linking short scenes together using aspects of McCoy's curiosity about the world and his defiance of both God and conventional social wisdom to speak to the larger historical context.
Wint, as McCoy, plays the inventor of the self-lubricating cup that changed steam engines forever as a sensitive and dashing everyman in spats, tailcoat and glasses. It's fitting that Wint should be so tall, because McCoy was a tall poppy just waiting to be chopped down.
As if also defying the social forces that still tear human relationships apart, the playbill equalizes the ensemble by listing the actors simply as "actor" and not by the roles they play. Bruce Beaton 's performance as cagey Scottish professor Rankin and Zainab Musa 's brief, crucial appearance as McCoy's mother are standouts, but all the actors deserve credit for their rich work in multiple roles.
I heard a couple of dropped lines during the opening sequence, but the rush of the story immediately stole my heart.
Productions like this one set the bar both for ensembles and individual actors, and demand better of other plays attempting to marry good storytelling with social justice.
The final scene between Wint and the rest of the cast found both my companion and me in tears, completely taken over by this remarkable play that made me believe, with both intellect and my soul, that Moodie is right when he writes that "a full and generous love of our fellow man is within our grasp."