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Michael Healey as the Prime Minister  Photo: GCTC/Andrew Alexander
Michael Healey as the Prime Minister Photo: GCTC/Andrew Alexander

Theatre Review: "Proud" at the Great Canadian Theatre Company

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"It's a comedy influenced by writers like George Bernard Shaw and Aaron Sorkin who both illuminate the politics of the day," says Michael Healey. "It's important to get people talking about politics and about their national government."

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Tom Barnett, Jenny Young<br />Photo by GCTC/Andrew Alexande

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You don’t need to know much about Canadian politics to enjoy Michael Healey’s laugh and thought provoking new play PROUD.  It’s an examination of politics that skewers both ends of the political spectrum.  PROUD is about much more then political chicanery.  To quote Artistic Director Eric Coates, “This play is a fearless and funny poke at government and the public’s role in the whole equation.”

It’s set in the Conservative Prime Minister’s office in 2011 when Stephen Harper began a new term, now with a majority.  Although the playwright uses Stephen Harper’s name, it quickly becomes clear that the play deviates from reality.  (For American listeners, imagine the result if Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert wrote a play about George W. Bush’s second term.)  The play opens with the Prime Minister conferring with his Chief of Staff Cary Baines when they’re interrupted by a newly elected MP, a sexy single mother in search of a condom.  He decides to use her to further his own political aims.

Drew Moore plays Jake Lyth, her son, who only appears alone giving an interview about her some years later.  Mr. Moore is faced with the unenviable task of making a one sided conversation believable.  He partially succeeds, but we never believe he’s actually hearing the interviewer’s questions or responses.  Tom Barnett does a fine job as the Chief of Staff, giving the character just the right touches of loyalty, cynicism and sleaze.

As Jisbella Lyth, “You can call me Jiz,” the always excellent Jenny Young gives the character depth.  What would appear at first to be a shallow bimbo turns out to be a much more complex character.  She’s especially good early on listing her beliefs that are a great combination of emotion and humor.

Playwright Healy himself plays the Prime Minister and is simply terrific.  His is a multi-level performance and thoroughly believable.  He too has a list, this time of things he doesn’t care about, that’s both funny and cynical.  I loved the scene with Jiz about the latkes.

Gillian Gallow’s office set is very playable.  I particularly liked the free-standing office door.  Her costumes are also good especially for Jiz, as they reveal her gradual sophistication.  Kimberly Purtell’s lighting effectively isolates Jake for his monologues.  Lyon Smith’s sound is good and I really liked the music.

Director Miles Potter has done a fine job with PROUD.  He’s found every bit of humor and he and his cast maintain the characters’ believability.  One of my favorite scenes is the phony argument and tantrum staged for the benefit of reporters outside the slightly open door.

My one quibble is with both the playwright and the director.  The end of the hilarious penultimate scene felt to most of the audience, including me, like the end of the play.  It got tumultuous applause.  The final scene was a sober and somewhat pedantic monologue for Jake that seemed superfluous and undercut the total effectiveness of the play.

That said, PROUD is a wonderful combination of intelligence and humor.  It makes you laugh, but also makes you think.  To quote from the play about an upcoming vote on a bill, “It works because it’s meaningless.  That’s perfect politics.”

On a scale of one to five the GCTC production of PROUD gets four and a half solar panels.  For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng.

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