NO GOOD REASON by Stephen Baetz, directed by Leslie O'Dell (Red Socks Company). At Young Centre for the Performing Arts (55 Mill, bldg 49). To November 10. $27-$40. 416-866-8666. Rating: NNN
Stephen Baetz's wartime drama No Good Reason is more about the shadows war leaves in its wake than about nationality or patriotism. That might not be what you'd expect from a tale about two recovering soldiers - a Canadian and an American - who meet on the terrace of an English military hospital in 1918.
The play begins with a series of luridly lit, disjointed flashbacks to a battlefield as Will (recent Dora Award nominee Christopher Stanton) struggles with his shell shock, clutching a notebook filled with scratched-out memories. But Sam (Mark McGrinder), who's now in a wheelchair, is determined to draw his new friend back into the reality of their sunny enclosure, even as he guards his own secrets.
Director Leslie O'Dell draws strong performances from both actors as Will and Sam alternately antagonize and support each other in Baetz's slow-building script. The nightmare sequences are occasionally confusing - there's too much unexplained movement - but Eric Bunnell's set design uses several chairs to transform the airy terrace into a murky trench.
There are also lighter moments of camaraderie: Sam teaches Will how to charm his sweetheart; Will helps Sam practise walking by dancing with him.
Evocative period tunes enhance the production's haunting mood. (Waiting There For Me, a CD featuring songs and poems by Canadian soldiers in the First World War, was produced along with the play.)
The ending, however, feels uncertain and anticlimactic.