The Drawer Boy at Filament Theatre Ensemble and the Den Ensemble | Theater review
A pair of farm owners must acknowledge long-kept secrets when they’re visited by a young actor in Michael Healey’s 1999 play.
In Michael Healey’s 1999 work, an enthusiastic young actor from a Toronto theater collective arrives at an Ontario farmhouse to capture daily agrarian life for a new play. The real-life play Healey references, 1972’s The Farm Show, was a revelation in its time, performed directly for the community that inspired it. It helped galvanize faith in an authentic Canadian theater and drew attention to Theatre Passe Muraille, the young company that created it.
In the face of that freshness, The Drawer Boy, which debuted at Theater Passe Muraille nearly 30 years later, is a decidedly conventional tribute to an unconventional experiment. As the young actor Miles (Marco Minichiello) inserts himself into the placid lives of his two hosts (both WWII vets), he witnesses firsthand the power of stories—onstage and off—as long-guarded confidences are finally revealed. Along the way we get a tasty helping of jokes at the actor’s expense; both the dry sarcasm of Morgan (Nick Polus) and the dewy-eyed earnestness of Angus (Will Kinnear, who tenderly plays the results of a wartime head wound with a childlike seriousness) prove too quick for him. But if Healey’s play has dark secrets to tell about the narcissism and nostalgia of the theater community, Filament’s able staging is innocent.
The production is handsomely acted on a rich, practical set that luxuriates in Will Dean’s buttery lighting design. Director Julie Ritchey has paced the play to match both its nimble folksy rhythm and the inexorability of its dramatic conclusion.