Thursday December 14th 2017

“The Drawer Boy”

Highly Recommended*****” It is always a treat to watch new theater companies come up with productions that are strong, which leads me to believe that they will grow faster and even more powerful as the year progress. One of these new companies is Filament Theatre Ensemble, who’s mission statement is to “create theatre in a folk tradition with an emphasis on community, imagination and sustainability” Their current production, “The Drawer Boy” meets this criteria as they tell the story about two very close friends who have been through a lot and have experiences that have been kept secret for many years. When a young actor comes to their farm to ask permission to learn about being a farmer for a play being written, many of the secrets of the past are revealed and changes in the lives of these two men come about. Written by Michael Healey, based on the original “The Farm Show’ , a big-city ensemble troupe that traveled through famrs in Canada( Theatre Passe Muraille) a group that traveled from farm to farm and gave the stories they found back to the community, this is a story that deals with healing power of art ( theater) and the true bonds of friendship.

“The Drawer Boy” examines the relationship between lifelong friends, Morgan ( a powerful performance by Nick Polus) and Angus ( deftly handled by Will Kinnear), who have spent most of their lives together. They have a farm in Canada and appear to be content with life as it is. When a young actor, Miles ( Marco Minichiello) comes to their door to offer his free labor so that he can learn more about farming for a play his troupe is planning to do, their lives change completely, allowing the truth of their existence to come out of the closet and allow these two friends to go on with their lives.

This is a strong production by Filament Theatre in conjunction with The Den Theater ( a nice loft spot on Milwaukee Avenue in Bucktown ( which has undergone some marvelous transformation since it initial opening) allowing the audience to see how protecting one from the reality of the past can stifle the growth of that person. Can we protect our friends from reality by inventing stories that make them feel better? Or is the truth the best medicine?. In this chilling yet comical take, we see that Angus has become less of a man due to the war that they fought in , and Morgan has protected him over the years by telling him a story to make him feel better. In many ways, these characters are very like George and Lenny in “Of Mice and Men”, with Morgan being George and Angus being Lenny. The big difference is that they are not nomads, but own their own farm. Yet, Angus, due to the war injury has problems with memory and understanding the past. When Miles comes to their home, he brings another view to the story and his discussions with Angus start to change his head and bring back some of the abilities he had prior to his injuries.

Director Julie Ritchey handles this transformation with just the right touch of honesty allowing us the audience to see the transformation in Angus with a real feel, rather than one force-fed. We see him begin to understand, remember and question what has been his life over these years. As it turns out, what he thought was fact, was not and Ritchey pulls no punches in delivering this to us, while at the same time, allows no quick remedy to the situation.

Just to clarify the title, Drawer, in this case means artist, someone who draws, not a part of a dresser or bureau. Angus is the drawer boy and part of the story involves a drawing of a home that would be two for both Morgan and himself as they wed two beautiful, tall women during the war. This is a major part of the story that is slowly revealed to be just a little different than first told and makes for the strongest of ties between these two characters. A powerful story with all the right touches and one that should be seen.

The Den is a small intimate theater that is just perfect for a production like this. These three actors play well off each other and Kinnear, who seemed a bit out of place during the first scene, ended up being the powerhouse that kept the others in line. Angus slowly overcomes his memory loss and trauma ridden past in a very realistic way and I for one truly felt that his character and his transition made this play one of the year’s best  in story telling. These are three strong actors, telling a very strong story and I urge you to go to Bucktown before the show closes in February!

The set by Chad Bianchi is amazing for a new theater group as we know they do not have budgets like the larger companies- even running water! The lighting by Will Dean and the sound by Melissa Schlesinger add to make the picture perfect. There is no mention of the props person for this show, but there a great deal of small props that truly make each moment seem real. This play took 27 years before Healey’s production took the stage ( based on the years of actors touring farms in Canada) and based on this production, was worth the wait- sheer perfection in a loft on the second floor in Bucktown! I suggest that you plan on taking the trip as this show will only run through February 25th with performances as follows:

Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. ( running time, approx 2 hours with intermission).

Tickets are $22.00 ($17 for students and $15 for industry)

To order yours, call 773-270-1660 or visit www.filamenttheatre.org/tickets

Parking in the area is metered and public transportation is very available

 

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