TOUGH! By George F. Walker, directed by Ken Gass (Factory/New World Stage, Luminato). At the Factory Studio (125 Bathurst), some free outdoor performances. To June 10. $15. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Ken Gass's new production of Tough! delivers a side of George F. Walker that audiences don't get to see much, in an imaginative staging that fills the mind and teases the imagination.
The three-hander is considered a young adult play, so in addition to its Factory Studio run it's getting free outdoor showings at a couple of GTA high schools.
Whatever your age, don't miss it.
When Tina, accompanied by her best friend Jill, tells her boyfriend Bobby that she's pregnant, Bobby inarticulately tries to break up with her. The three hash out issues, reveal a glimpse of their hopes and fears and then part inconclusively but oh so believably.
What Gass has done, quite brilliantly, is stage the work so that four actors of various ethnic backgrounds play each role. This takes a minute or two to sink in, but once you catch on, the journey is hugely entertaining. Actors hand off their duties like teammates passing a ball to one another (something suggested by the chainlink fences and skateboard ramp in Akiva Romer-Segal 's multi-platform set).
When they're not playing one of the leads, the others can echo words and phrases, chorus-like, or surround another character, gang-like.
Walker's script itself is full of nuance. Bobby, like a lot of young guys, is inarticulate about his feelings, and Walker has Tina subtly prey on his insecurities by undermining his sense of self-worth.
The cast of young unknowns creates enough energy to light up the Factory Studio for a year. Special shout-outs to Bethany Jillard and Stephanie Jung 's Tinas, Richie Guzman and Marc Senior 's Bobbys and Chala Hunter and Morgan Norwich 's Jills.
Can't wait to see you all soon on other stages.