Walker play explores middle class madness 1

Review by Judith Robinson    May 12, ‘19

Since the 1970’s, Canadian playwright George F. Walkers plays have had audience members squirming in their seats as pimps, prostitutes, criminals and drug addicts took center stage. In recent years, the master craftsman turned his spotlight on to the Middle Class. His 2010 drama, And So It Goes, currently playing at the Pia Bouman Scotia Bank Theatre in Toronto, not only gives a voice to the voiceless, it exposes what it’s like for those who had a voice to lose it. Latin teacher, Gwen, powerfully enacted by Deborah Drakeford, and her husband investment adviser, Ned, played by Dan Willmott, had a pretty cushy life,

Drakeford * McCulloch on stage

 until their daughter, Karen, played by Tyshia Drake became a schizophrenic – at which point everything unraveled. It’s the unraveling that’s fascinating to watch. While mentally ill characters have oftentimes been effectively portrayed on stage, and Drake does it exceptionally well; there have not been many dramas focusing on the demise of the middle class and the economic & social factors causing it to implode. 

In this play, Walker has turned more philosophical than in his earlier plays – using a more gentle touch to brush in the strokes needed to reveal the true colours his characters. He doesn’t spend as much time focusing on their outer crises, as on their inner stresses – which he fleshes out through hallucinatory scenes in an almost magic realism fashion.
When Scott McCulloch comes on stage to play Gwen’s hallucination of Kurt Vonnegut, her imaginary therapist, the atmosphere crackles and pops. It is obvious that Karen is not the only one who is cracking. The scenes between Drakeford and McCulloch are perhaps the most lucid in the production, taking the audience into territory not often explored – the landscape of the madness of the middle class – hidden behind alcohol and private residences.

All the actors did a great job of making very dark moments come to life with witticism and black humour. Although they never really emotionally connected with one another, outside hallucinations, there was a fiery intensity within each of them. Walker’s direction was fine-tuned. Each transition was seamless. Real and imaginary scenes blended into one another. The past and the present seemed interchangeable. Chin Palipanes lights, Kelly Wolfs sets and Jeremy Huttons sound design helped to create the eerie, ethereal tone. These characters are close enough to average, ordinary, “normal” Canadians that the hair goes up on the back of the neck. Could any one of us be a moment away from the slippery slope?

Kyanite’s production of And So It Goes is playing at the Pia Bouman Scotia Bank Theatre in Toronto until May 26th. Wednesdays to Sats at 8:00. Saturday matinee at 2:00.

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