"The Drawer Boy"
Westport Country Playhouse, Westport
“The Drawer Boy” is more in the style of an off-Broadway piece—more modest, thoughtful, low-keyed, and less of a crowd-pleaser, than past offerings at summer playhouses. But is there an audience in Westport and environs for this kind of play? It is certainly not spirited summer fare merely meant to entertain. Whatever its flaws, “Drawer Boy” forces audiences to examine questions of life and identity and the workings of the human brain.
Playwright Michael Healey has written a provocative piece, with simple, direct dialogue in a style uniquely his own. (If any writer is called to mind, it is Hemingway.) Repetition of phrases and ideas is particularly effective. And unexpected comic moments come into play, which relieve the underlying tragedy. One speech in which “Hamlet” is analyzed in modern idiom is hilarious.
Yet there are times that “The Drawer Boy” is so low-keyed that it literally falls on its face. The two lengthy monologues which provide background, for example, bring the play’s action to a dead halt.
The drama deals with two life-long friends, Angus and Morgan, who have purchased a farm and share its operation. Angus (the “drawer boy” of the play’s title) is mentally disabled, and the other cares for him brusquely but lovingly. The story goes that the Angus had been injured in a car accident during wartime. In his earlier life, he had showed promise as an architect, drawing sketches for their farm buildings. Hence the nickname.
Into their midst wanders Miles, a young man who wants to create a play about farm life. Naturally, a third party living on the premises alters the dynamics drastically. As the play unfolds, the very myth of their earlier lives—and myth it is—is brought into question. How was Angus injured? Is he truly disabled? What are Morgan’s motives in caring for him?
Director John Tillinger never falters as he guides his players—the excellent Michael Countryman, Carson Elrod, and John Bedford Lloyd—through this tale. Countryman, who has the most interesting role as the damaged Angus, creates a fascinating character.
A word is in order for James Noone’s set design—an arrangement of mellow wooden slats—suggesting a farmhouse, indoors and out—through which Kevin Adams’ ever-changing lighting works its magic. The design work adds to the strength of the production, which, under Tillinger’s direction, brings all the elements together.
In all, an interesting, thoughtful piece, which may be a harbinger of things to come at the Playhouse.
-- Irene Backalenick
June 23, 2006