Domino opens the Drawer

Angus (Michael Catlin) and Miles (Chris Spaleta).
Angus (Michael Catlin) and Miles (Chris Spaleta).
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Morgan (Rick Cairns) pauses to reflect in The Drawer Boy.
Morgan (Rick Cairns) pauses to reflect in The Drawer Boy.
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Theatre Preview: The Drawer Boy at The Domino Theatre Sept. 8-24

A brown metal breadbox, a wall covered in cherries and various other signs of a 1970s farmer’s kitchen adorn the stage for Domino Theatre’s production of The Drawer Boy. This touching story of three men connected by stories of the past and their desire to understand the present speaks to those of all ages.

The preview for this show was a sign of great things to come for its three-week run. The Drawer Boy was written by Michael Healey and was first produced in 1999 at Toronto’s Theatre Passé Muraille. Healey’s play is based on research compiled by a group of actors from Theatre Passé Muraille in 1972 about the life of farmers in Clinton, Ontario. It chronicles two elderly, lifelong friends and how their lives are drastically changed when a young actor from Toronto comes to live with them as he researches life on the farm. Rick Cairns takes on the role of Morgan, the protective and caring friend of Angus, played by Michael Catlin. Morgan and Angus have been friends since childhood, but a tour in Europe during the Second World War left Angus with severe brain damage causing memory loss, and leaves Morgan with the task of acting as Angus’ guardian. Miles, the young actor played by Chris Spaleta, seeks to understand the “unusual” farm practices that Morgan teaches him, but also longs to know about the memories that Angus lacks.

Cairns, as Morgan, does an excellent job playing a hardened farmer who has seen too much and remembers even more. His comedic descriptions of “the truth about farming” give the show a light, happy feel. Catlin, although seeming a bit nervous at first, warmed up to the audience quickly and gave a heartwarming portrayal of Angus, a simple man who gives water on a spoon as medicine, and one who finds comfort in the simple activity of making sandwiches. Spaleta creates deep relationships with both men, becoming the man who brings a sense of reality back into the farmhouse.

Director Steve Powell said it was the story that drew him towards this play.

“It makes you laugh, it makes you cry,” he said. Perhaps the most interesting angle this play covers is the power of seeing yourself in another light. Miles listens to stories from Angus and Morgan’s past and then turns it into text for his play. It is because of seeing his own story on stage that we see Angus go through such a drastic change in character.

Set designer Dan Rider designed a creative and innovative set for the production. Rider was able to use a small amount of space efficiently to create a kitchen, as well as a barn and front stoop for the farmhouse. With these three playing spaces, the actors were able to move through the space with ease, using a screen door as the threshold between different spaces.

The costumes were simple but well-chosen for the time period. While Spaleta was dressed in too-tight jeans and a tie-dyed shirt for most of the show, costume designer Anne Arrowsmith dressed Cairns and Catlin in classic 1970s farmer’s attire. Sound designer Peter Cassidy chose Canadian folk and country songs to play during the sometimes too-long blackouts between scenes, and created an interesting sound-scape for a scene during which all three men were off stage yelling directions at Miles on how to drive the tractor, while the loud sound of a tractor filled the theatre.

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The Drawer Boy will be running for the next three weekends at Domino Theatre. The show opens Thursday, September 8, and runs Thursday to Saturday through to September 24. The show starts at 8 p.m. each night. Tickets are available via the theatre website (www.dominotheatre.com)or over the phone (530-2150).

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