×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Risk Everything

Despite a penchant for filling his plays with the socially downtrodden and alienated, George F. Walker has avoided being pinned down as a political playwright and, mostly, avoided putting overt political statements in the mouths of his characters. He prefers, instead, to let his zany, marginalized creations make their point in offbeat ways and has said that his characters and plays have their own voice, for which he then has to find a structure.

With:
R.J. ..... Tom Barnett Carol ..... Nancy Beatty Michael ..... John Ralston Denise ..... Kristen Thomson END OF CIVILIZATION (DRAMA; FACTORY THEATER; 198 SEATS; C$ 23 ($ 16)TOP) TORONTO A Factory Theatre presentation of a play in one act written and directed by George F. Walker. Set and costumes, Shawn Kerwin; lighting, Rebecca Picherack; sound, Jonathan Rooke. Opened May 2, 1998. Reviewed May 9. Running time: 1 HOUR, 10 MIN. Lily ..... Brenda Bazinet Max ..... Layne Coleman Henry ..... Michael Healey Sandy ..... Fiona Highet Donny ..... Daniel Kash

Despite a penchant for filling his plays with the socially downtrodden and alienated, George F. Walker has avoided being pinned down as a political playwright and, mostly, avoided putting overt political statements in the mouths of his characters. He prefers, instead, to let his zany, marginalized creations make their point in offbeat ways and has said that his characters and plays have their own voice, for which he then has to find a structure.

In “Risk Everything,” the last of six plays in his cycle titled “Suburban Motel,” it’s as if his characters have run out of things to say, and so their “structure” is essentially pure farce.

Unlike the first play in the cycle, “Problem Child,” in which we meet two of the four characters for the first time, style substitutes for depth. Back then ex-druggie mom Denise (Kristen Thomson) and her TV-addicted hubby R.J. (Tom Barnett) were trying to turn their lives around, and Denise’s final monologue was an exquisite denunciation of the child agencies that occasionally do more harm than good in trying to protect their clients.

This time Denise and R.J. seem to exist merely to drive the action forward, and even a subtext about what the poor need to do to get ahead and be treated fairly by the rest of society doesn’t hold much water against a nonsensical plot about Denise’s larger-than-life, Bourbon-swilling mother Carol (Nancy Beatty), who tries to con a seriously dangerous criminal out of a large sum of money, and brain-dead Michael (John Ralston), a porno director from an earlier “Suburban Motel” play, “Featuring Loretta.”

The title is appropriate: In ending his cycle with “Risk Everything,” Walker has indeed risked everything, and up against “The End of Civilization,” the fourth play in the cycle, it emerges as a minor work, whereas “Civilization” is perhaps the best play of Walker’s career. In it, for the first time, Walker creates middle-class characters who jab a finger directly at the evils of galloping capitalism and the increasingly alienated society it creates. Or, in the words of one character, at “a bunch of greedy pricks who can’t put a lid on their greed.”

Lily (Brenda Bazinet) and Henry (Michael Healey) have had a typical marriage, with the big house and two kids. But a couple of years ago Henry was laid off, and he has not been able to find a job; now, in desperation, the couple has checked into a seedy motel room on the outskirts of a new town (all six plays take place in the same room), while Henry makes a last-ditch effort to save his marriage and mortgage.

In a series of cleverly constructed flashbacks and flashforwards, Walker gradually reveals the true cost of Henry’s unemployment, which has nothing to do with money and lifestyle. For Henry it’s the absence of “getting up in the morning and doing work that’s respected.” Lily, on the other hand, sees her middle-class status as a lifeline to self-respect. Their mutual search eventually drives Henry over the edge and leads Lily into prostitution.

As the cauldron of their frustrations erupts, three other characters come on the scene, a couple of cops looking for a serial killer (Layne Coleman and Daniel Kash) and a hooker (Fiona Highet), who introduces Lily to her way of life. But it is the central relationship between Henry and Lily that drives the play forward to its haunting conclusion, expressed by Walker in bleak terms when he has a character remark: “If the world is so sick that it creates these people , then the world deserves them.”

There are some laughs here, but the dark comedy that sometimes pushes Walker’s plays into the realm of absurdity is noticeably missing. And though the writing often feels as instinctive as he claims it to be, “Civilization” seems torn from a deeper place, from past the gut and out of the very depths of his soul.

Risk Everything

(COMEDY; FACTORY THEATER MAINSTAGE; 198 SEATS; C$ 23 ($ 16) TOP)

Production: TORONTO A Factory Theater presentation of a play in one act written and directed by George F. Walker. Set and costumes, Shawn Kerwin.

Crew: Lights, Rebecca Picherack; sound, Jonathan Rooke. Opened, reviewed June 17, 1998. Running time: 1 HOUR, 20 MIN.

With: R.J. ..... Tom Barnett Carol ..... Nancy Beatty Michael ..... John Ralston Denise ..... Kristen Thomson END OF CIVILIZATION (DRAMA; FACTORY THEATER; 198 SEATS; C$ 23 ($ 16)TOP) TORONTO A Factory Theatre presentation of a play in one act written and directed by George F. Walker. Set and costumes, Shawn Kerwin; lighting, Rebecca Picherack; sound, Jonathan Rooke. Opened May 2, 1998. Reviewed May 9. Running time: 1 HOUR, 10 MIN. Lily ..... Brenda Bazinet Max ..... Layne Coleman Henry ..... Michael Healey Sandy ..... Fiona Highet Donny ..... Daniel Kash

More Film

  • Zach Galifianakis Jerry Seinfeld Netflix

    Film News Roundup: Zach Galifianakis' 'Between Two Ferns: The Movie' Coming to Netflix

    In today’s film news roundup, “Between Two Ferns: The Movie” is unveiled, “Friedkin Uncut” gets a fall release and Sony Classics buys “The Traitor” at Cannes. MOVIE RELEASES Netflix has set a Sept. 20 release date for Zach Galifianakis’ “Between Two Ferns: The Movie,” based on his 11-year-old talk show. Galifianakis made the announcement during [...]

  • Romanian Crime-Thriller 'The Whistlers' Bought for

    Romanian Crime-Thriller 'The Whistlers' Bought for North America

    Magnolia Pictures has bought North American rights to the Romanian crime thriller “The Whistlers” following its premiere in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Written and directed by Corneliu Porumboiu, the film stars Vlad Ivanov, Catrinel Marlon, Rodica Lazar, Antonio Buil, Agustí Villaronga, Sabin Tambrea, Julieta Szonyi and George Pisterneanu. Magnolia is eyeing a theatrical [...]

  • Naomi Scott Talks Rebooting Princess Jasmine

    'Aladdin': Naomi Scott on Why Her Princess Jasmine Needed Nasim Pedrad's New Character

    Call Naomi Scott the queen of the reboot – or at least, the princess. The 26-year-old actress is taking on the role of Princess Jasmine in Disney’s live-action remake of “Aladdin,” but it’s not her first time jumping into a role that’s already been well-established. Audiences may recognize Scott from 2017’s “Power Rangers” update, where [...]

  • Moby Natalie Portman

    Moby Accuses Natalie Portman of Lying as the Two Spar Over Dating Claims

    In what’s become a he said/she said spat in multiple mediums, Moby, the elder statesman of electronic music, is now accusing actress Natalie Portman of lying and pleading to those on social media for his safety as “physical threats from complete strangers” emerge. To recap: this month, Moby released a new book, “Then It All [...]

  • A QUIET PLACE Emily Blunt

    'A Quiet Place' Sequel Moves Ahead Two Months to March 2020

    Paramount Pictures has moved its sequel to “A Quiet Place” ahead by two months from May 15 to March 20, 2020. John Krasinski is returning to direct the still-untitled movie with Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe reprising their roles. Cillian Murphy is joining the cast. “A Quiet Place” grossed $340 million at the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content