Moss Park is a Safe Bet
No strangers to the stage at the Irving Greenberg Centre, both renowned Canadian playwright, George F. Walker, and director Patrick MacDonald (see: Artistic Director ’80-’87)are back with Moss Park presented by Vancouver-based company Green Thumb Theatre. This dark comedy, marking the fourth show in the Great Canadian Theatre Company’s season, features the same characters from Walker’s 1993 play, Tough!, only a few years later and with a whole new set of problems. Clocking in at just over sixty minutes, Tina and Bobby (Emma Slipp and Graeme McComb) meet again to discuss the potential of a future together, with their daughter, despite their growing financial and familial instabilities.
Taking place in (you guessed it) a city park, the main-stage seems a little spacious for this intimate two-hander. However, the set design (by Martin Conboy) is appropriate and nonetheless creates an appealing landscape for the actors to play against. I admit to feeling conflicted: the wide stage space, in itself, almost demands more stage movement, which is not made necessary, or even desirable, by the vital intimacy in the text. A lot of the blocking happens on the park benches (usually just one of the two) which leaves the rest of the stage mostly unused, though to be fair the bench choreography is well executed and the stage pictures pleasing.
The actors in this production are engaging from beginning to end despite the text’s circling around the same unresolved issues (money, employment, baby, repeat). McComb as the irresponsible Bobby is funny in his (almost) blissful naivety and also touching as he slams full force into adulthood. Slipp’s portrayal of Tina resonated strongly with me and I was struck most by her frustration not only with her thoughtless, undependable baby daddy but with a society that stacks the odds against poor single mothers. Her performance is emotional and raw, though the constant undoing and redoing of her ponytail becomes quite distracting.
As characters Tina and Bobby are an interesting pair. Bobby is suggested to be nothing more than the product of his own environment: unable to learn any real life skills because his dad is a drunk, as suggested by both characters on different occasions. Further, he remains so out of touch with reality through his delusions of “grandeur” that he physically can’t deal with unexpected bad news. Tina, on the other hand, while having a similarly unfortunate upbringing lives completely in the real world and strives constantly to transcend to something better…even if that’s just avoiding living in a shelter. What confuses me slightly, however, is the resolution: the traditional gender-role switch is a nice idea, but unrealistic if we are to believe they are as impoverished as they say they are.
The kind of desperate and devastating poverty that Tina and Bobby face is a reality for an increasing number of Canadians. Moss Park depicts two very recognizable and realistic individuals who learn hard and fast what it means to be poor and what it means to be desperate. The production is well done, if not a little tame for those with more exotic tastes, but enjoyable overall. The playwright’s sharply humorous, yet conventional, text makes it a safe bet at the box office for the Great Canadian Theatre Company, but nonetheless it is understandable why Walker is a mainstay.
Moss Park by George F. Walker
A Green Thumb Theatre Production
Presented by the Great Canadian Theatre Company Jan. 20th-Feb. 8th 2015
Directed by Patrick MacDonald
Starring Graeme McComb and Emma Slipp
Get your tickets here.
Edited by Caitlin Gowans.