Never Own Anything You Have to Paint or Feed.

Wes Babcock

 

Never Own Anything You Have to Paint or Feed, beyond being an outstanding title, brings to life the vivid characters who inhabit the wrong side of the tracks in the American West of 1965 through the capable story-telling of Howard Petrick.

The show kicks off with Petrick singing a song by Joe Hill, a song writer from a generation before the show’s setting, who created anthems of the underclass that reflect well on the humans that Petrick’s character, Howard, encounters. This is the first among a series frequent connections drawn between the labour rights movement and Howard’s story, which grow tenuous if you consider that their only relationship in the story is that the movement, Hill, and these people both function on the margins of society. The songs and union-movement facts certainly put the story in context, but beyond their thematic relevance, they aren’t particularly helpful to Howard’s retelling and detracted from the tale’s coherence.

Nevertheless, Petrick’s story is engaging, and he does an excellent job depicting the often-hilarious quirks of its characters through great physical and vocal work. I particularly liked Howard’s travelling mate, a very strange man devoted to doing as little as possible.

There is nothing rigid or forced in the transitions between these characters, even during dialogue, which is an impressive achievement, especially given the myriad distinct voices that contribute to the story. These unique slices of humans in time and place are wonderful to watch, and a great history lesson in themselves

Perhaps Petrick could consider talking about the union movements of Joe Hill’s generation through the guise of these characters more often, rather than presenting them as bits of narrative outside the moment of the story. This works very well on the occasion we learn about the labour “fink” around the hobo-jungle soup pot, and would give even greater voice to those marginalized people that never have their stories told. This would further enhance a theme which already forms a key part of Petrick’s production. I may feel this way because I occasionally find that Howard’s responses were a bit stilted in comparison with the rich lines delivered by the other characters, and I wished for a more interesting Howard to come through.

Towards the show’s end Petrick seemed to tire slightly, which resulted in some dropped lines around the show’s emotional climax. This detracted a bit from the performance, but it was an 11 o’clock show, and it’s especially hard to blame the man when he’s just convincingly mimed a wrestling victory against a 300-pound giant. I thought this show was charming, and worth the visit to Studio Léonard-Beaulne.

 

Upcoming Shows: (Venue #4: Studio Léonard-Beaulne)

 

June 22 @ 21:30

June 23 @ 19:30

June 26 @ 21:00

June 28 @ 18:00

June 29 @ 13:00