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Transcript: Connie Meng Review aired Monday, November 19, 2001

The Drawer Boy

NAtional Arts Centre, Ottawa, ON. Thurssday, November 17 through Saturdday, December 1, 2001.

It's difficult to write a review of THE DRAWER BOY, as all I really want to say is that it's a terrific production of a wonderful play and everyone who possibly can should go see it. Written by Michael Healy, directed by Miles Potter, and winner of just about every award there is in Canadian theatre including the prestigious Governor General's Award for Drama, THE DRAWER BOY has become an instant classic. Co-produced by the National Arts Centre with regional theatres in Hamilton, Edmonton and Vancouver, this production features the original cast and director.

The drawer boy of the title, who was known to draw pictures in his youth, and his boyhood friend Morgan, are two aging bachelor farmers who take in Miles, a young actor. Miles hopes to learn about farms and farm life in order to contribute material to a play. He inadvertently sets in motion a series of events and revelations that threaten to disrupt the two farmers' long standing friendship.

Two overlapping picture frames in shades of gray and white contain the beautiful minimalist set designed by John Ferguson. The upstage arch frames an Andrew Wyeth inspired barn. The one downstage frames the interior, composed of free-standing and clean-lined architectural pieces, which give it a slightly surreal feeling. It's an interesting contrast to Mr. Ferguson's realistic costumes.

Kevin Fraser's subtle lighting, in particular the dawn sequence and that during the Act II confrontation, adds a subliminal emotional dimension.

Once again Marc Desormeaux has provided wonderful original music. He's also come up with an interesting palette of sounds that are very effective in conjunction with the director's use of silence and pauses.

The cast couldn't possibly be better. Tom Barnett plays Miles, a young actor who can't see the people for the drama. Anyone who's been involved in theatre has known a Miles. Mr. Barnett delicately shows us the beginnings of his emotional awakening.

Morgan, as played by Jerry Franken, is the perfect stoic countryman, hiding both his pain and his deadpan sense of mischief. At one point Miles comments that the beef tastes like ham. Morgan responds, "That's because we feed the pigs to the cows."

David Fox's performance as the confused and handicapped Angus, is by turns funny, frightening, and most of all, touching. He's truly a gentle giant, but with a long buried streak of rage and frustration. As he begins to awaken to parts of his forgotten past, we catch glimpses of the man he could have been.

Miles Potter has directed this honest, compelling play with great insight. His use of silence is brilliant - both for tragic and comic effect. The opening sandwich sequence is hilarious.

Mr. Healey and Mr. Potter have shown us the value of friendship and devotion, the pain of truth, and the comfort of lies. New plays like this don't come along very often, so take advantage of the blue moon when they do. If you only see one play this year, get up to Ottawa and see this one.

On a scale of one to five, the National Arts Centre production of THE DRAWER BOY gets five Royal Canadian Mounted Police, horses and all. For North Country Public Radio, I'm Connie Meng.


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