by George F. Walker
Directed by Patrick McDonald
Theatre Passe Muraille until November 16th 

Reviewed by Robin Breon 

The first double take that one might have done upon first reading about the Theatre Passe Muraille/ Green Thumb Theatre co-production of George F. Walker’s play, Moss Park, (which opened at TPM recently) was: Green Thumb? Isn’t that the theatre for young people ensemble that originated in Vancouver 30 years ago and generally presents plays that edify and educate at the same time?

A long way from the sometimes dark and depressing world of George F. Walker, especially when he is dealing with contemporary down-and-outers as opposed to his historical plays.

 And yet there are Tina and Bobby (played by Haley McGee and Graeme McComb respectively), all fenced in (literally) a time warp and facing some of the same problems that they faced twenty years ago in Walker’s play, Tough! Perhaps the only thing that has changed is the east end of Toronto, where Walker grew up, which is now a far more gentrified and genteel place to live.

This two hander character study comes in at just about 60 minutes running time which is another indicator of its “stamp of approval” for a high school assembly program with time left over for the obligatory “talk back” session that would be important for the audience base served by Green Thumb. Having noted all of this, I think it’s best to judge the play solely on it merits, regardless of whatever template it has to satisfy with regard to format. And this play does have much merit. 

Tina and Bobby are real young people who face real problems. Poverty exacerbated by dead end, low paying jobs along with Tina’s impending pregnancy are just a few of them. Their options seem to be limited. Bobby considers going back to stealing in order to make a living while Tina considers whatever work is available. Although it soon becomes apparent, by way of Walker’s signature fast paced and funny dialog, that Tina is the more capable of the two when it comes to career planning.

Haley McGee as Tina is a practical yet pragmatic heroine who we quickly gauge as the more competent of the two. Graeme McComb’s Bobby, on the other hand, is a clueless rogue who will easily end up behind bars unless he listens up and takes Haley’s advice which he seems incapable of doing. How that all plays out is the gist of the play. 

I won’t ruin anyone’s evening by doing a disclosure here but suffice it to say that the ending of the play is indeed edifying without being treacly thereby making it consistent with Green Thumb’s mandate when it comes to working with youth, which is: “to empower”.  

Moss Park will run at Theatre Passe Muraille until November 16th. Twitter hashtag: #MossPark

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