By George F. Walker
Performances: February 2-5 & 9-12, 2000
Venue: Hagey Hall 180, Humanities Building
George F. Walker was born in Toronto in 1947. Since the early seventies, when he wrote Prince of Naples in response to a call for scripts from the Factory Theatre, his reputation as one of Canada's foremost playwrights has spread. Walker's major breakthroughs came with Gossip in 1978 followed closely by Zastrozzi, both of which received international attention for his unapologetic blend of raw drama and dark comedy. Through well-known pieces such as Tough, Criminals in Love, and the Power Plays, Walker established his reputation as a powerful fixture in the modern Canadian Theatre. With the Suburban Motel series, Walker adds significantly to an impressive body of work, setting his writing in the quintessential 'nowhere' - a run-down Suburban Motel - and a cast of 'nobodies' - the kind of people who pin their last hopes on their sleeves and still never get a second glance. In Walker's hands, this faceless limbo becomes a somewhere, a home of spilled words and bottomless hopes where people converge. But we follow them, sometimes into places we known, sometimes into places we wish we never knew, and always toward the fiercely unexpected.
Although Walker's dark wit is evident throughout the other episodes in the Suburban Motel cycle, only 'Criminal Genius' and 'Featuring Loretta' stand out as the most unashamedly comedic. The story of a young woman at a cross-roads in her life, 'Featuring Loretta' careens wildly from slapstick to gritty realism to outright farce. However, Lorrie is more than a mere straight man to the assortment of losers and misfits she has surrounded herself with. In the final analysis, the play's central conflict requires Lorrie to make a very serious decision - one that will determine the future of two lives.
Problem Child follows R.J. and Denise's attempts to restore their lives and their past to regain their baby, taken 'for its own safety' by the government. With only a prayer and a change of clothes, they move into a suburban motel to attempt a 'normal' life. Enter Phillie, the drunken landlord, who completes the picture of three social outcasts. These misfits come to depend on the person they resent the most - Helen, their social worker - for the desperately needed baby. R.J.'s frustration and Denise's instability are pushed to the limit as they clash with Helen's uncompromising ideals. Problem Child confronts ideas of personal and social justice as it gives a face to statistics and government mandates. It careens through situations and questions which challenge the ethics of an impersonal and judgmental society and leaves only a voice that would otherwise have remained silent.