Tom Walmsley’s classic play Something Red is currently onstage at the Meta Gallery in Toronto.
The play is filled with compelling suspense and dark comedy. It was first performed in Vancouver in the late seventies.
Something Red is directed by Greg Kramer. Kramer was a runaway and lived in B.C., the location of the play, for seven years. Kramer describes Vancouver in those days as a haven for draft-dodgers and runaways, people looking to start a new life.
This is a play about four such lost souls. They are two couples, Bobby and Christine, and Alex and Elizabeth.
Three of the four are trying, anyway. Bobby (Todd Sandomirsky) spends his days doing not much of anything. He drinks all day, leaving it to the others to endure painfully dehumanizing dead-end jobs. I didn’t feel any emotional investment by Sandomirsky in the character.
Jay, my partner, disagreed and really liked Sandomirsky. While I didn’t find his portrayal as authentically dangerous, Jay disagreed. I suppose this might be because I grew up on the dirty side of the tracks. My colleagues were losers and nutjobs bound for a meaningless lives of misery. Jay’s childhood was substantially more positive, meaningful and “normal”.
We also disagreed about Angela Besharah’s portrayal of Elizabeth. I liked both the character and the actor. However, we both liked David Christo as Alex and Moksha McPherrin as Christine.
Jay appreciated that the theatre didn’t smell like sweaty feet when a character removed their cowboy boots. The fact that only a curtain separated the front of the theatre from Ossington Avenue probably helped.
We both agreed that the front of the house being more or less open to the outside world on the whole added to the realism – the “feel” of the play. On the other hand, a person peeking in every so often and laughing kept disrupting my engagement with the play.
Jay and I also loved Laura Storey’s set. It was simple yet provocative, and allowed for the writing and acting to be the focus.
I truly admire when a production uses a temporary facility. It takes a mountain of both cooperation and passion. There’s bound to be minor technical glitches and we accept most and forget them quickly. Peeking through the curtain and laughing is unfortunately something that will stick with me for a while.
A lot of B.C. people with unchecked egos consider Vancouver to be Canada’s Shangri-La. They look down their noses at the rest of us. When I think of Vancouver, I imagine people like the characters in this play and the recent riots. I read a great line recently concerning the same: “I don’t often riot, but when I do, I choose Vancouver. Keep it classless my friends.”
Appalling events and people can be looked at through a variety of lenses. Sometimes we reconsider our notions as a result. Something Red is one of those plays that does that.
I’ve really enjoyed Walmsley’s plays in the past. His work reminds me of the old movie Drugstore Cowboy and William Burroughs novels. Walmsley writes authentic dialogue, on par with David Mamet.
Something Red certainly isn’t for everybody. It is, however, “a brutally honest piece” and an important part of Canada’s theatre landscape. You’ll likely enjoy this play, so check it out.
– Red Root Collective presents Something Red at the Meta Gallery on 124 Ossington Ave.
– The show runs from June 16 to July 2, Wednesdays to Sundays at 8 pm.
– Tickets are $20 and are PWYC on Sundays.
– Tickets are available online.
Photo credit: unavailable at time of posting