Scene from Generous. (Theatre By the River)
It seems entirely fitting that during a provincial election campaign derided by many as "boring," Theatre By the River brings us a solidly entertaining production of Generous - a play that reminds us that politics (both personal and civic) can be passionate.
Written by Toronto's Michael Healey (best known for The Drawer Boy), Generous is really four short intertwined playlets, which take us from the chaos of the Prime Minister's office, to more chaos at the home of a fried-chicken-obsessed man and his troubled girlfriend. These seemingly disparate scenes all come to Healey's main question: what is "generosity?" Is public service really about serving others? And how "generous" are we to those we say we love?
There are weighty questions here about the political arena and personal relationships - but they're made easier to swallow by Healey's sharp comic writing. He offers plenty of laughs, laced with the kind of comic profanity that would make David Mamet proud. "It was a farce," one of the characters says of his time in politics - and at several points, Healey presents his thoughtful themes in that form.
Farce, of course, is tricky to pull off, but the 10-person ensemble cast handles it with aplomb. The performances range from good to fantastic, with standouts including Sarah Constible as a blunt but cynical executive, Rod Beilfuss (who does double duty as director) as a hopeful young legal clerk, and Kevin Anderson as a befuddled ex-Member of Parliament.
Working on a bare-bones set, Beilfuss directs the sometimes frenetic action smartly - he moves the show at a great pace, and keeps Healey's dialogue snappy.
You can argue the election isn't terribly interesting. But Generous certainly is, and it gets my vote.