Theater review by Diane Snyder. SoHo Playhouse (see Off Broadway). By Michael Healey. Dir. Alexander Dinelaris. With Alex Fast, Brad Fryman, William Laney. 1hr 50mins. One intermission.
Ever suspect you’re being fed a heaping plate of hokum? Then you might empathize with the title character of The Drawer Boy, Michael Healey’s nimble play about memories lost and found. You could even feel that way as an audience member of this acclaimed 1999 Canadian play, which explores the truth that exists and the one we create. And you might not mind. Alexander Dinelaris’s production for the Oberon Theatre Ensemble has been seasoned with enough fine, gently forceful acting that it’s possible to forget the ingredients aren’t organic.
Initially, the 1972-set play appears to be a satirical comedy about Miles (Fast), an eager actor from the big city (or in this case, Toronto) colliding with middle-aged farmers Morgan (Fryman) and Angus (Laney) when he spends time observing them as research for a play. Friends since youth, Morgan has become the George to Angus’s Lennie since the latter suffered an accident and now forgets things as soon as they happen. But before long we’re in the depths of a psychological mystery. When Miles overhears the story of the pals’ shared past and performs it, Angus starts remembering, and his recollections don’t jibe with Morgan’s version.
His face a searching, blank slate, Laney captivates as Angus. But Healey reaches too far as he toys with themes of memory, trust, truth and who owns one’s story, fictional or otherwise. The playwright may be trying to make a point about the tales we tell, but you can’t quite shake the feeling that his characters are as manufactured as Morgan’s story.—Diane Snyder
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