17 Jun Oakland Tribune: TheatreFIRST gets great performances in funny, tense 'Drawer Boy'
By Pat Craig
Correspondent , The Oakland Tribune
06/16/2010 05:29:46 PM PDT
“The Drawer Boy,” from the title on down, is your basic shaggy Canadian play, complete with Toronto jokes and a plot that catches you like a sucker punch in a dark barroom.
Canadian Michael Healey’s play gets a terrific run by TheatreFIRST in a production at the intimate Black Box Theatre in Oakland’s Fox Theatre Building. The comedy, with some sad and tragic undertones, has an outstanding cast — Warren David Keith, Howard Swain and Max Rosenak — telling the story of a couple of farmers whose deepest secrets bubble to the surface when a callow, city-boy actor visits to learn about farming for a play he’s writing.
Keith plays Angus, and Swain plays Morgan — two lifelong friends now well on the road to senior discounts and pensions. Angus is a little on the “slow” side, according to Morgan, who seems to do most of the work around the farm as Angus battles migraine headaches and a pitched battle to retain the little memory he has left.
In what has become a ritual, Morgan tells Angus the story of how they grew up together, planned a farm, went to the war in Europe, met a couple of girls, the tall one and the taller one, and how Angus got injured.
The two men accept Miles into their home and farm. Morgan has great fun teaching Miles the ways of the farmer, such as how the least productive cow is the one butchered for meat, which leaves the herd in a constant state of anxiety over their fate. Miles takes it all quite seriously, but also is fascinated by the story Morgan tells Angus.
Eventually, Miles adapts the story into his play, and invites the two men to a rehearsal, where Morgan is furious at having the story made public and Angus seems to come out of his shell. This brightening of Angus changes the relationship with Morgan and adds an ominous tone to the play.
It’s a story that sneaks up on you and engages both your interest and emotion as more and more is revealed, building both interest and tension to spin a yarn that is both satisfying and slightly disturbing.
Director Domenique Lozano has paced the show beautifully, beginning with a languid sort of unfolding of the tale in the first act to the rapid movement of the second act. The actors, too, pull all they can out of the clever Healey script.
“Drawer Boy” is very much an actors’ show. It provides three fine roles and a challenge to those playing them, with characters that grow and change throughout.