MY MOTHER'S FEET by Gina Wilkinson, directed by Micheline Chevrier, with Jerry Franken, Tom Rooney and Jane Spidell. Presented by CanStage at Berkeley Upstairs (26 Berkeley). Runs to Apri1 2, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Saturday 2 pm. $26. 416-368-3110. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Dan, the central figure in Gina Wilkinson 's My Mother's Feet , can't run away from home fast enough. Even then - and as an adult - he can't escape the loving mother who follows him wherever he goes. It's not by chance, though the explanation of how they come into the story occupies the show's 90 minutes, that as soon as we're introduced to Dan, we meet his mother's prosthetic feet.
Wilkinson's first play - clever, witty, sometimes quietly savage and upsetting - is passionate about language and its use; lines keep echoing in various resonant contexts. The playwright toys and puns with her words, fashioning a series of tales-within-tales that interlock to show the key figures in Dan's life: his parents, his wife, Ursula, and his son, also named Dan. Too bad the climactic story, which wipes away anger and betrayal and replaces them with forgiveness, has a forced feel.
Dan's psychology is as vital as the external events in his life. Deeter Schurig 's set, lit by John Munro , is a womblike cave that sometimes reveals and sometimes conceals, just as do Dan's stories of his past and present.
Jumping from one form of storytelling to another, the show uses humour to beguile us before dark elements emerge. It's curious, though, that director Micheline Chevrier sometimes engages our heads rather than our emotions, even in the more upsetting parts of the story. Still, the director paces the piece well, hinting at but not revealing too much too soon, and paralleling with visual imagery.
As Dan, Tom Rooney knows how to shift from the sly send-up of the early moments to the upset man/boy later on; the glint in his eye, we realize by the end, is part wicked thoughts of vengeance, part tears for his past.
The wonderful Jane Spidell carefully distinguishes between the powerful, stalking mother with a sneering disregard for "peasants," and the more give-and-take, sensual Ursula, both of them rich figures. On the other hand, Wilkinson draws a father ( Jerry Franken ) who has little impact on the family, and neither as Dad nor as a patient cop does Franken have much to do except react to events and complaints.