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THE DRAWER BOY

By MICHAEL HEALEY

Directed by Gregg W. Brevoort

Merc Playhouse
TWISP, WA

 

METHOW VALLEY NEWS
Drawer Boy Conveys Rituals Of Stories, Life
By Marcy Stamper

– “It’s stimulating to watch a new and talented cast and director at work”

Stories entertain and comfort.  Sometimes they embellish the truth for dramatic effect or because the fiction helps us cope with an unsettling reality.

But a finely-crafted story is only the beginning.  Much of the impact of a story comes from the way it is told.  Listening to a gifted storyteller, we respond to the emotional content along with the plot.  But context and perspective are essential, and reality can be hard to pin down.  Is it important that there be one accepted version of events?

These themes supply the dramatic focus and structure behind Michael Healey’s The Drawer Boy, the second play in the Merc Playhouse’s summer season of professional theater.  While it hinges on the import of stories, The Drawer Boy is also about how we handle responsibility and build attachments.

Set in 1972, the play features three men – childhood friends Morgan and Angus, who live together on a farm in Ontario, and Miles, a young actor who comes into their lives with his Toronto theater troupe on a quest for authenticity in a play they are crafting about the lives of farmers.

Angus sustained a head injury in World War II, suffering pronounced memory loss, diminished intellectual capacity (except for an incredible facility for numbers) and altered emotional responses.  Morgan has cared for his friend ever since, and his care provides a kind of refuge on a practical and emotional level for them both.

In the program notes, director Gregg W. Brevoort writes about the use of storytelling as a device and as a metaphor.  “In this beautifully constructed play we see how stories, and the rituals surrounding them, actually have a profound effect on the lives of people.”

The plot combines both the rituals of storytelling – whether in the course of daily life or as theater and entertainment - with domestic rituals such as baking bread and milking cows.  The house and farm work are a crutch for Morgan and Angus, providing a structure for their existence.

The play begins with considerable humor, much of it poking fun at Miles’ theatrical pretensions and his earnest determination to understand the rural experience.  Miles is so committed to his project that he experiments with a hilarious series of postures and deep-throated moos in his efforts to grasp the essential nature of a cow.

All the characters have honed their own techniques for skirting painful situations.  To escape from his emotional burden, Morgan retreats into chores or asks Angus to make him a sandwich or do a quick mathematical calculation.  Miles slips into one of the characters he has played in the theater, yet sometimes his portrayals themselves open the door to long-buried sensitivities for the men.

It’s stimulating to watch a new and talented cast and director at work.  Brad Harrington, in the role as Morgan, is particularly effective in conjuring the tender, yet depleted, caregiver who has channeled his energies into his chores on the farm.

Reed McColm (Angus) appeared in a previous production of The Drawer Boy, but in the role of Morgan.  McColm is so convincing in the challenging role of Angus - perfectly balancing his limited faculties and emotional fragility - that it is difficult to imagine him playing the sharp-witted Morgan.

Chad Herrmann, a slight, elfin man, is well cast in the role of Miles, exuding boyish naiveté and a comical solemnity about his art.

Brevoort treats the characters and theme with affection and an easy touch that allows the emotional punch of the story to emerge gradually.

Many small touches lend class and sophistication to the production.  Finger-style guitar music sets the right mood from the opening scene and smoothes the transitions.

The Drawer Boy runs through September 3, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, at the Merc Playhouse in Twisp.  For more info call 997-PLAY.