Written and directed by George F. Walker
Featuring Martha Burns, Peter Donaldson, Jerry Franken and Jenny Young
Factory Theatre
Run extended through March 7th

Reviewed by Robin Breon


Would it be possible for the Factory Theatre to celebrate its 40th anniversary season without a new play by George F. Walker? Well, it looked iffy for awhile but eventually artistic director Ken Gass prevailed on his long running in-house thoroughbred playwright and got him back onto the track after a ten year hiatus from that fast gallop to the finish line that is the business of  producing plays.  By Walker's account, the dead heat that produced his latest tale of marginalized aspirations was ten days in the writing.
Gwen (Martha Burns) and Ned (Peter Donaldson) are part of that vast middle class who, through no fault of their own, veer off the road one day and are just unable to regain control of the vehicle driving their lives. Their son has disappeared, and, as the play opens, it is clear that there is something seriously wrong with their daughter, Karen (played by Jenny Young). What is wrong with her is clearly psychological and here of course is where Walker challenges us to figure out the who, what, why, where and how of it all. Because Karen is so far off balance - neurotic, schizophrenic, various neurosis', pathologies ... it's all a bit much to deal with right off the top. Luckily we have the ghost of Kurt Vonnegut in the form of actor Jerry Franken to help guide us through the evening.
Eventually everyone begins to fall off the map with Gwen and Ned going from staid middle class to flat on their ass within the context of a darkly humorous scenario that is the Walker trademark. Martha Burns and Stratford stalwart Peter Donaldson are well matched for the soon to be radicalized pair who are desperately trying to claw their way back into the mainstream. Jerry Franken as the placid, somewhat avuncular author turned imaginary psychiatrist, Kurt Vonnegut, listens to their frustrations and anxieties with a knowing sense of bewilderment and bemusement.
But it is left to the thoughtful work of Jenny Young as the disturbed Karen to give closure to it all by a lovely and heart rendering performance that begins with shrill dissonance and ends with a quiet (and wholly functional) resolve that is almost pastoral in its simple sotto voce that is just perfect for the role and the play.
Upcoming this summer for Walker and his long time collaborator, composer and sound designer John Roby (who also contributed the fine sound design for And So It Goes), will be a spot under the big top at the Stratford Festival with the opening of their new musical, King of Thieves, their take on the 18th century classic of the marginalized, The Beggar's Opera.

Return to Home Page