note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey
The Vokes Players’ quirky production of THE DRAWER BOY is running through May 17th at the historic theater in Wayland. Michael Healey’s thoughtful play about friendship and sacrifice centers around two farmers, one of whom was severely injured in WWII. He and his buddy spend their days working a meager dairy farm in Ontario, when one day a city boy shows up wanting to write about farm life. His inquiries drive a wedge between the two men and long buried secrets are revealed.
Playing THE DRAWER BOY mostly for laughs in Act I diminishes the impact of the harsh realities Healey paints of farm life. The practice of using ground up animal carcasses instead of grain to feed farm animals, for example, should elicit horror in us---where here it’s merely the punch line of a joke about why the beef tastes like ham. Nevertheless director JulieAnn Charest Govang manages to capture the profound sadness and deep sorrow shared by these two men. And Brad Walters gives his best performance yet as the man with brain injury. Walters nails the cognitive impairment which makes his short term memory malfunction and affects a sweet innocence as he tries in vain to process new information. Walters gives the man immense dignity.
John Small makes the caretaker-farmer plenty wry and a formidable foe for Robin Gabrielli as the greenhorn interloper who thinks he’s helping the benighted Angus. James Barton’s clever indoor-outdoor set reveals a cramped, dreary farmhouse and suggests, with a majestic oak, the fresh air and expanse of space in the country. Healey’s gentle meditation on small farm life leaves a poignant residue.