Special to The Standard
SCUGOG: The Borelians current offering at Town Hall 1873, The Drawer Boy, earned the playwright Michael Healey the 1999 Governor General’s Award for Drama. It’s easy to see why. Its three characters compel our attention at the outset and, without letting up, draw us ever more deeply into their story right to the end.
Set on a farm in Clinton, Ontario in 1972, the play opens when Miles, a young actor with Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto, arrives at the farm of two bachelor brothers, Angus and Morgan. Miles’s goal is to learn about farm life for the play he is writing. What he learns goes far beyond that. Miles uncovers, bit by bit, the nature of the bond between these two men and the events of thirty years previous that still rule their lives.
The dominant theme in the Drawer Boy is, broadly, truth. For Miles it is simple. As an actor, truth informs the reality of his performance and inspires awareness in his audience. For the brothers Angus and Morgan it is much more complicated. The truth of their common memory has powerful effects on the deeper reality of their relationship.
Bring a farmer friend to this play if you know one. He or she will be happy to see their reality accurately presented on stage. One scene has the brothers enumerating the financial facts of farming. The dollar figures are frankly shocking -- for more reasons than their age.
There are wonderful comedic moments in the Drawer Boy. Morgan can’t resist having some fun at the expense of Miles and his ignorance of farming. Angus’s discovery of theatre, and the levels of reality involved when an actor portrays a real person on stage, is delightful. And playwright Healey is lampooning actors when he shows Miles struggling to understand and portray the inner life of a cow. Feel free to laugh out loud.
The Drawer Boy is based on an actual historic event. In the 70s, actors from Theatre Passe Muraille lived and worked for a summer on farms in Clinton to gather material for their collective documentary play The Farm Show. The first performance of a successful rural tour was in Ray Bird’s barn, a reference you will hear in the announcer’s opening address to the audience.
The actors have done their research to capture the essence of their characters: Kyle Dickie as Miles, the innocent but naïve actor; David Geene as Morgan with an outward crustiness that hides a deeply caring heart; and John Lunman with his stunning portrayal of Angus, a seemingly simple man with a complex mix of mental deficits and assets. This is John’s first appearance with the Borelians.
The set of The Drawer Boy deserves a special mention. The audience peeks through a deconstructed exterior wall into the kitchen of a farmhouse. The inside walls are a metaphor for Morgan and Angus’s memories -- partially peeled back in places, revealing the beams and even the wiring within. Set decorators Jan and Wally Taylor have given us an accurate and unromantic portrait of a well-used farm kitchen in the early 1970s with its motley collection of furnishings from the prior decade. Completing our immersion into 1972 is an all-Neil Young soundscape created by Michael Serres.
The Drawer Boy opened last week but tickets are still available for this weekend -- Thursday through Saturday evenings, plus a Saturday matinee. Friday night attendees get the added experience of an expert adjudication after the show. For tickets, call the Town Hall 1873 box office at 905-985-8181, or visit www.townhall1873.ca.