Thursday, February 12, 2004

Playhouse premiere draws upon true tale

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] William McNulty (left) and John Thomas Waite are bachelor farmers whose lives are turned upside down when a young urban actor stays with them to research a play.
(Sandy Underwood photo)
Five reasons to see the Cincinnati premiere of The Drawer Boy, opening tonight at Playhouse in the Park:

1. It's inspired by a true episode from 1972, when a group of young Canadian actors went to live and work with Ontario farmers. Their interviews, observations and experiences were collected into a play called The Farm Show (a precursor to work like The Laramie Project.)

2. Drawer Boy is about an actor who comes into the lives of a pair of old friends, one of whom suffers sad/funny memory loss from a World War II injury. It doesn't take long to figure out there's more to their story and some mystery in their past that's at the heart of their lives.

Playwright Michael Healey isn't afraid of the big questions, like "Who does own the story of someone's life?" (pertinent in today's world of intrusive media) but he asks some hilarious small ones, like "What's the difference between hay and straw?" (He says he asked that a lot while researching, and never got a concrete answer.)

What: The Drawer Boy
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 5 and 9 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday through March 7
Where: Playhouse in the Park Shelterhouse Theatre, Eden Park
Tickets: $38.50-$46.50; 421-3888
3. It's the hot play on the world stage this year, with eight stagings in the United States and productions in Ireland, New Zealand and Australia. It's being translated into German and Japanese and is being filmed for Polish television.

4. Director Michael Haney's terrific work for Playhouse in the Park includes Proof, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and the annual A Christmas Carol, and he's fresh back from Vienna, where he remounted the Playhouse production of The Syringa Tree for The English Theatre.

5. The play is comedy, tragedy and mystery, and Healey doesn't get the title, either. "I was bullied into it," he laughs. "Drawer" doesn't refer to that sliding box in your bedroom bureau, but to a person who draws.

But that's the only clue to the play's mystery that I'll be divulging. It's more fun to uncover the play's secrets for yourself.

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