Sunday, May 19, 2019

Kyanite Theatre presents George F. Walker's AND SO IT GOES

                                                        In the 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut used the phrase "So it goes" as a transitional phrase to another subject, as a reminder, and as comic relief. Generally the phrase was used after every time someone's (or something's) death is described or mentioned in the novel. - wikipedia

In the light of current inhuman cuts to a variety of crucial provincial services, the current Kyanite Theatre production of George F. Walker's And So It Goes (2010), is a fast paced, darkly humorous, and very timely (although almost a decade old) production focused on the effects of economic crisis and mental health issues. 

Citing the famous quote from Kurt Vonnegut in his title, Walker subtly sets his audience up for a smug, potentially joyless ride through great despair. However, the layered writing, finding hope within hopelessness, and the powerful performances, make the play into a wild, witty, bitter, yet darkly uplifting lesson for these increasingly difficult social and economic times.

cast/production photos by John Lundy

l-r Deborah Drakeford as Gwen, Scott McCulloch as Kurt Vonnegut

Another quote from Vonnegut's prolific career comes to mind, and lives on a beloved fridge magnet of mine - "We could have saved the earth but we were too damned cheap." Walker's script reveals just how intense capitalism becomes as it interferes with the lives, loves, and livelihood of a once middle class family fallen on hard times - and the ravaged planet they try desperately to survive on.
detail from my fridge magnet collection

Dan Willmott as Ned

Deborah Drakeford  and Dan Willmott give wonderful performances that play with both manic energy as well as a subtle, understated and always successful grasp of the fine line Walker, as playwright and director, demands from his characters as they gradually reveal an underbelly of emotion and insight that simultaneously saddens, amuses, enlightens, and entertains. Both Drakeford and Willmott manage to balance perfectly a finely tuned sense of enraged frustration and supreme disappointment, without going over the top into an overstated fear and anger that their situations could provoke. You can sense the depth of their agony, as they navigate a layered script that demands the subtleties of devastation as it sinks into the character's psyche, yet ultimately brings them together in a kind of necessarily muddled yet satisfying denouement. Their fine delivery and physicality lends a fast-paced tone to each act, in particular a second act that moves swiftly toward its culminating moments.

Scott McCulloch as an imaginary Kurt Vonnegut residing within the minds of the floundering couple, creates a whimsical, impish'ly energetic sparring partner for his hosts - racing across the stage with a vivacious stride, and engaging with Gwen and Ned (Drakeford & Willmott) with the wit, charm, empathy, and slight frustration that rounds out the best of imaginary friends with a fine credible quality in the midst of mayhem. McCulloch also manages to bring a sense of Vonnegut's presence to the role through his simultaneous seductive, attentive, and mildly comical, dishevelled appearance in a pivotal 'homeless' sleeping bag scene with Gwen (Deborah Drakeford). Directed within a tightly blocked, casually intimate framework, the scene adds to the complicated emotional mosaics both Walker and Vonnegut create in their work. 

Tyshia Drake's Karen, as the struggling daughter, creates a complex and varied emotional landscape for her character to move in and out of as the rigours of her particular diagnosis demands. Walker's great skill as both director and writer reveals his great insights and abilities regarding the need to populate a stage with a panoply of articulate wordplay and a strong sense of inhabiting the entire visual arena of magic and mayhem with energy and explosive narrative. The choice of music throughout (Jeremy Hutton, sound designer) - seamlessly punctuating scenes and creating effective transitions between varied episodic moments - lends an informative melodic lyricism to the events that unfold over the course of this enthralling two act (one intermission) 120 minute work. Well worth seeing as a reminder of Walker's impressive body of work spanning over four decades of Canadian theatre and television.

Deborah Drakeford (upper) with Tyshia Drake (lower)



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