THE REAL McCOY written and directed by Andrew Moodie (Factory, 125 Bathurst). To November 4. $25-$36, mat pwyc-$20. 416-504-9971, www.factorytheatre.ca. Rating: NNN
After its acclaimed run in 2006, Andrew Moodie's look atAfrican-Canadian inventor and entrepreneur Elijah McCoy returns tothe Factory Theatre, and it's worth a look, even if the scriptdoesn't quite warrant a second viewing.
McCoy was born in Upper Canada to parents who fled slavery in thesouth. His early aptitude in science won him a scholarship to theUniversity of Edinburgh, where he developed his interest inmechanical engineering and, particularly, steam engines.
Once back in North America - in Michigan to be exact - he was deniedwork as an engineer because of his race, so he took a job as arailway fireman. Soon, however, he invented a self-lubricating cupthat revolutionized steam engine train travel.
McCoy's two marriages ended tragically and he had no children. Hisother inventions include things like the foldaway ironing board andthe lawn sprinkler.
Moodie (Riot, The Lady Smith) presents a linear, straightforwardaccount of McCoy's life and work, but there's a slight CanadianHeritage docudrama feel to the proceedings. McCoy remains an elusivefigure. The character's most alive when he's explaining hisinventions to us, and the science lessons are helped by an onstagescreen so illustrations can be flashed upon it.
Moodie is less successful at presenting McCoy the man. We never knowwhy he married the women he did, and we don't get much of a glimpseinto his larger philosophy, either. A couple of monologues - perhapscouched as speeches - could have given us more access to the latter.Actor Maurice Dean Wint, however, invests the character with so muchdignity and grace that he almost fills in the gaps. The ensemble castincludes Kevin Hanchard, who plays the younger McCoy with lots ofenergy, and Ordena Stephens-Thompson - who's new to the cast - whoadds warmth and humour to her various roles (maid, wife) and makesthem more memorable than they are on the page.