DEAD METAPHOR by George F. Walker
DURHAM SHOESTRING PERFORMERS
Produced by Carolyn Wilson, Directed by John Lunman, Stage Managed by Tracy Magee-Graham
The intimate performance venue of the Arts Resource Centre lends itself well to daring, in your face live theatre since the action takes place just metres away from the audience. George F. Walker’s DEAD METAPHOR opened the final DSP show of the 2016-2017 season, and this production is a top notch and in your face one. It will make you think, it will make you feel uncomfortable, it will surprise you, it will shock you and it will haunt you long after it is over.
DEAD METAPHOR is described in Director John Lunman’s Program notes as a scathing political comedy about the collision of values between left and right, rich and poor, male and female. His vision in staging and direction is clean, crisp and clear. Having a former sniper as the central character does certainly set up a comedy of a darker nature. Especially in this era of ‘The Donald’, DEAD METAPHOR is a challenging one as it deals with sensitive issues of The Taliban, mercy killing, blistering and foul language and political double speak.
Former sniper Dean Trusk (Joseph Lauria), who suffers from PTSD, is a boiling pot of insecurity, fear, revenge and spite and on the brim of eruption when we first meet him in his social worker’s office. Dean can’t find meaningful work at all as the only work he knows is how to kill people. Joseph Lauria’s intensely controlled performance draws us in immediately, as we want to know and to hear what happened to Dean overseas.
As social worker Oliver Denny, Paul Love captures realistically the fine line of professionalism that he can’t cross of counselor and client versus his disgust in realizing what Trusk is capable of doing. And yes, there is humour in the opening scene especially in those double take moments as Mr. Love listens to Mr. Lauria and realizes the seriousness of this former sniper. This laughter stems from hidden fears within all of us. How much do we really know about another human being to the point where he is able to wipe us out in a span of a second?
An absurd nature of DEAD METAPHOR is also revealed in the personal relationships both Dean and Oliver have with others. It is here where we see the unraveled connection of male and female relationships in Walker’s world.
Oliver’s marriage is clearly strained when we first meet his wife, Helen (a home run ball park performance by Kristi Lauria) who is running for political office and is determined to do whatever she can to win this election. The uncomfortable silence (which borders on the hilarious) in the restaurant where they have met to eat dinner clearly says everything about their marriage without saying anything. Helen is extremely smart, competent and wily to achieve whatever she wants, and Mrs. Lauria’s performance is a standout especially where she uses political double speak. Think federal PC leadership hopeful candidate Kellie Leitch as you watch Mrs. Lauria.
Dean’s home life fares not well, and we witness the inherent drama in which he lives. Jenny (Amber Dawn Vibert), Dean’s ex, soon to be wife again, carries his child. Ms. Vibert plays Jenny with a childlike innocence combined with street-smart confidence and a dash of sass on the side. Dean’s tempestuous relationship with his parents is then slowly stirred into this boiling pot of insecurity. Hank Trusk (a highly skilled performance by Craig Martin) has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. Mr. Martin deftly moves us emotionally on many levels as we begin to see the cancer swiftly invade his body, his voice and his speech. Hank also carries the fear of losing his son again when he has to return overseas, and the reality of this moment is truly heartbreaking. The only character that appears to have any sense of decency is Frannie Trusk, and Jane Hickey delivers a performance of tremendous depth of character. Like Mr. Martin, Ms. Hickey moves us emotionally when she is at her breaking point of trying to care for and watch over her dying husband.
The final moment of this production of DEAD METAPHOR is cleverly staged as two of the actors enter the audience. I don’t want to spoil it here, as you do need to experience it yourself. You will have questions, you will be challenged to confront your own views of right and wrong and you may feel a tad uncomfortable. But that, my friends, is the reason why we participate and go see live theatre.
DEAD METAPHOR continues March 29, 30, 31 and April 1 at 8 pm at Oshawa’s Arts Resource Centre, 45 Queen Street behind City Hall. Tickets may be purchased at the door before each performance. Visit www.durhamshoestring.org for further information or to purchase tickets on line.