Sandy Duarte (left), Stephen Chambers, Alexander Krstich and Geneviève Trilling aren’t bottled up.
In a clever verite touch, empty booze bottles rest on the seats in the makeshift Parkdale theatre where Tom Walmsley's 1979 play Something Red is getting a long-overdue remount.[rssbreak] The inevitable clinking of overturned bottles adds to the gritty ambience as four characters imbibe, wobble around and tear each other apart.
Bobby (Alexander Krstich) and Alex (Stephen Chambers), once best friends, have grown apart. Aspiring novelist Alex has found some stability in a job and relationship with grad student Elizabeth (Sandy Duarte), while Bobby has become a drunken, embittered recluse in the apartment of his girlfriend Christine (Geneviève Trilling).
After a drunken Scrabble game that efficiently spells out the widening differences between the characters' lives, Walmsley sets up a vicious battle between the men via a more brutal game that owes a lot to the film The Deer Hunter.
Walmsley's expletive-laden language and psychological insights into everything from impotence to sexual abuse and S/M have aged well, and you can see why a young company like Doghouse Riley would be attracted to the material.
Director David Tompa makes good use of the rough-edged, shaggy space, and there's an improvisatory feel to the performances - which sometimes results in a dropped line or an occasional unfortunate shoutfest.
But there's no denying the play's power, especially when Krstich's magnetic Bobby starts seeing his options dwindle, or when Duarte's middle-class Elizabeth begins unpacking her own psychological baggage.
Let's hope this kick-starts more Walmsley remounts.