BENEVOLENCE written and directed by Morris Panych (Tarragon, 30 Bridgman). To October 27. Pwyc-$38. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNN
Good deeds don't always lead to good results, or even good feelings.
For proof, there's Oswald Eichersen ( Tom Rooney ), who gives $100 to the homeless Lomy ( Stephen Ouimette ). Lomy proceeds to take over his life, doing his best to turn Eichersen into a new man. Or, as Lomy sees it, liberating the good soul within the uptight orthotic shoe salesman.
Morris Panych 's Benevolence takes place in a grotty porn movie house, the place where the eloquent, playfully enthusiastic but extreme Lomy feels comfortable meeting the man he wants to take under his therapeutic wing.
The play is a battle of wills, conservative versus free spirit, and it involves Eichersen's girlfriend, Audrey ( Jennifer Wigmore ), and Jackie ( Gina Wilkinson ), a prostitute and former hairstylist who yearns to be a paranormal psychologist.
Panych writes seemingly arbitrary dialogue that's often screamingly funny, and he gives the characters bitingly comic lines.
But the narrative sometimes has a treading-water quality. Lomy carries out more and more destructive/instructive deeds in Eichersen's name - the adjective depends on your point of view - but Eichersen's reaction barely changes.
We get a sense of his change, a surprising sweetness, at the end, but there's little development in the work's middle section.
Still, the talented cast creates vivid characters and gets the laughs. Rooney's Eichersen becomes increasingly dishevelled, in look and manner, while Ouimette's Lomy moves silkily from soothing to ranting.
Wigmore plays the controlling Audrey with a steeliness that starts to crack when she undergoes a slight, short-lived change, and Wilkinson's passionate Jackie has at least two hearts of gold. Colin Heath helps create atmosphere as an almost wordless porn-house patron who sees as much drama in the auditorium's seats as on the screen.
There's also an ugh factor (and that's a compliment) in Ken MacDonald 's detailed set, with its taped-over seats and sticky detritus on the floor. The clever lighting, including a spill of dappled light from the fourth-wall "screen," is by Andrea Lundy .