zadie's shoes by Adam Pettle, directed by Jackie Maxwell, with Jordan Pettle, Paul Soles, Deborah Drakeford, Kelli Fox, Tara Rosling, Randy Hughson and Richard Zeppieri. Factory Theatre production presented by David & Ed Mirvish at the Winter Garden (189 Yonge). Runs to May 11, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday, Saturday-Sunday 2 pm. $35-$60. 416-872-1212. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNNN
adam pettle's play zadie's shoes,a hit last season at the mid-size Factory Theatre, fits beautifully in the much bigger Winter Garden. This has little to do with the scale of the set or the large (eight) number of characters and everything to do with the play's lusty, life-affirming spirit and probing human themes. This show belongs here.Pettle's plot-rich story follows Benjamin (Jordan Pettle), a young writer/waiter who gets a tip on a racehorse from a mysterious Jewish prophet named Eli (Paul Soles) and bets money meant for his sick girlfriend Ruth's (Kelli Fox) experimental cancer treatment.
Subplots concern Ruth's two contrasting sisters (Deborah Drakeford and Tara Rosling) and Benjamin's racetrack buddy Bear (Randy Hughson), all of them questioning their faiths and beliefs.
That's a lot of story, but Pettle and director Jackie Maxwell move things along quickly, propelled by strong performances and the sure bet of the central dilemma. True, some characters aren't as fleshed out as we'd like, but they all remain sympathetic -- Pettle's a master at eliciting our empathy for sad, searching losers -- thanks to fine casting, especially of the sisters.
Pettle's dialogue is snappy, the one-liners reminiscent of Woody Allen at his best (those sisters, come to think of it, are more Hannah's than Chekhov's).
Sue LePage's multi-level set is dominated by a stadium bleacher that makes us feel life is a racetrack and we're all in the stands, clutching our tickets with faith and hope. And has anyone else noticed that Marc Desormeaux's scene-changing music sounds a lot like U2's Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For?
Win, place, show or lose, Pettle teaches us in this humane and moving work that what matters is the people with whom you watch the race.