by Adam Pettle
Directed by Jackie Maxwell
Starring Jordan Pettle
Winter Garden Theatre until May 11
189 Yonge Street/416-872-1212 or

Reviewed by Joel Greenberg

When Zadie's Shoes moved up to the 1000-seat Winter Garden Theatre from its premiere home at Factory Theatre and its 250+ capacity, something must have been lost or forgotten en route. Having been among those frustrated many who were unable to get tickets for the January 2001 production, I have no point of comparison between then and now. But there's no doubt that what was so striking to critics and paying public alike on Adelaide Street is hardly enough to raise a chuckle at Yonge and Queen.

Adam Pettle's play about an addicted gambler and his partner whose losing battle with cancer is encouraging her to explore Mexico for alternative treatments, is laboured. The characters are who they appear to be and there are no surprises of unexpected insight or unpredictable plot turns. Watching the two acts is more work than it should be, and the sound of seats snapping into upright positions while the play was in progress, indicated that more than a few patrons decided they could be more productive elsewhere.

Benjamin battles his need to gamble for reasons he cannot understand. He is willing to gamble what little he has and even what little his girlfriend has. He goes to a synagogue, where he imagines that he will find solace. Instead, he finds an elderly man who speaks only in parables. (Reason enough right there to understand why the young man finds synagogue so alienating.)

Ruth, his girlfriend, has two sisters who are standard issue theatre types: Beth is a constipated curling hotshot who wants nothing more than to win an imminent tournament, and Lily is a free spirit who is given to saying and doing outrageous things, most of them uninteresting and all of them unflattering to the actor playing the part.

Bear and Sean are two other male characters who come and go without adding purpose to an already formulaic pattern.

I know that the original production was rumoured to have had charm and tenderness and much humour. Perhaps these were the very things that went missing in the journey from one home to the next.

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