Review: Scooter Thomas Makes It To The Top Of The World (Black Rabbit Theatre and The Box Toronto)

Scooter Thomas Makes It to the Top of the World, a play about friendship and memory at The Box Toronto

Black Rabbit Theatre’s Scooter Thomas Makes It To The Top Of The World, playing at The Box Toronto, is a straightforward two-hander about friendship and memory that was elevated by the company’s committed performances and fine direction.

Set in the ’70s, we are introduced to Dennis Wright right after he receives a phone call informing him that his childhood best friend, Scooter Thomas, has passed away. While James King’s interpretation of Dennis’s grief read as a little awkward to me at first, his Dennis later took on a more genuine earnestness that was irresistibly endearing. But the play really picks up in pace and energy when Dan Curtis Thompson’s scene-stealing Scooter Thomas enters as Dennis attempts to reconcile himself with Scooter’s death by reviving scenes from their friendship.

Despite containing a well-trodden plot, the play still managed to pleasantly surprise me. There’s a particularly strong scene depicting societal attitudes towards mental health that unfortunately still rings true 40 years later, and I found the portrayal of certain characters to be an examination (and sometimes critique) on the models of masculinity. Although it may have just been an attribute of the retro time period, King’s portrayal of a rotating-door of male authorities figures that Scooter couldn’t live up to seemed satirical to me. Even Dennis and Scooter were variants on the familiar trope of the square side-kick who hero-worshiped his more adventurous friend.

The play also nicely interspersed high energy scenes with quieter ones, and director Rachael Moase has a good eye for tonal shifts and creative blocking.  However, the quieter scenes were definitely stronger than the loud ones. Whereas the louder scenes – especially the ones set in childhood- sometimes felt messy, the quieter scenes burned with a nuanced emotional intensity that was greatly helped by King and Thompson’s fantastic chemistry.

King and Thompson had such great chemistry that I thought their characters’ interactions almost bordered on the romantic during certain moments but that’s not an unrealistic feature for a close friendship based on admiration. However, I have to admit I was a little sad when they just remained friends throughout.

The technical values of the play were generally high but sometimes the lights were too dim for me to see the actor’s faces and there were scenes where the actors weren’t loud enough. The entrance of Scooter also felt a bit muddled and I wasn’t sure if Scooter was a ghost or just a figment of Dennis’s imagination until I read the program.

Nonetheless, I found Scooter Thomas Makes It To The Top Of The World to be a solid, enjoyable effort from Black Rabbit Theatre and The Box Toronto.


Photo of Dan Curtis Thompson and James King provided by the company.