Thunderstick is a production that's got a bit of a split personality - not only because Kenneth T. Williams' script boldly aims for a blend of slapstick comedy and high drama (with mixed results), but also because the casting you see will depend on which performance you attend.
Lorne Cardinal (best known as Sgt. Davis Quinton on Corner Gas) and Royal Canadian Air Farce alum Craig Lauzon (famed for his Stephen Harper impersonation) swap roles in this two-hander with each performance - and you can see why they'd want to.
Thunderstick follows cousins Jacob and Isaac. Jacob - the more comic, and therefore coveted, role - is rather buffoonish journalist with a significant alcohol problem. Cousin Isaac is a straight-laced photojournalist, but has some darkness in his own past, especially around his work in war zones. The two end up working for the same newspaper, and have to investigate the disappearance of the Minister of Justice. But that plot point is just a MacGuffin... the real story here is how the odd couple bonds on their gonzo mission, which involves a couple of stops in jail, vomiting on the Prime Minister, and a gunfight.
When Thunderstick commits to that kind of wacky comedy, it works. Williams' script is very funny, and under the direction of Bradley Moss and Del Surjik, Lauzon and Cardinal turn in great comic performances (I saw the preview performance, where Cardinal played Jacob, and he did some great clowning). A lot of the humour is very "earthy," but it's impossible not to laugh at.
The more dramatic moments, though - which touch on things like the legacy of residential schools, and sometimes half-seriously on Jacob's alcoholism - feel wedged in here. Thunderstick tries to be too many things, and it's more successful at some than others.
It also spins off madly at the end - the resolution to the plotline about looking for the missing government minister is completely, bafflingly nonsensical.
But even if it does go off the rails, Thunderstick makes for a fun ride.
CBC Theatre Reviewer