The Drawer Boy

Farmers and actors lying to each other in rural Canada, at the San Jose Rep

The Farm Show was a documentary-style experiment in live theater that brought real Ontario farmers onstage, circa 1972, in the person of Canadian actors who had interviewed them. "In many ways, the play marked the beginnings of a strong, Canadian theater," writes Michael Healey, author of The Drawer Boy, "free of American and British influences." Healey is exaggerating; Michel Tremblay had started to free Canadian theater from imperial influence in the '60s. The Farm Show was certainly in on the ground floor, though, which means that Healey's new play about the project, The Drawer Boy, is an act of artistic patriotism. It shows a young, idealistic actor moving in with two brothers who run a small Ontario farm. Everyone's Canadian, though the American actors in this San Jose Rep production haven't mastered the accent. The soundtrack is heavy with Neil Young, and the set shows a spare farm kitchen with a worn-enamel sink and fridge. One farmer, Morgan, is a crusty, deadpan old coot who dominates his brother, Angus, because Angus has no short-term memory. Morgan also lies to Miles, the actor, and gives the impression that real Ontario farmers feed their pigs to the dairy cows, rotate crops according to the angle of the sun, and wash stream-bed gravel. Accents aside, Dion Anderson (as Morgan), Bob Morrisey (as Angus), and Sheffield Chastain (as Miles) play their distinct and colorful roles so well you can ignore a few lapses in the story that make it seem too "well made," or too self-consciously Canadian. The Drawer Boy is Healey's first full-length script, and he should have a long career ahead of him.

 
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