The Austin Chronicle


Reviewed by Adam Roberts, April 18, 2014, Arts

The Drawer Boy

Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd, 512/479-7529
Through April 26
Running Time: 2 hr.

According to Hyde Park Theatre's program notes for The Drawer Boy (which cite " and other sources"), this Canadian drama "was the fourth most-produced play in the United States during the first decade of the 21st century." Considering the number of plays produced across the country annually, that's quite an accomplishment for this humble, three-person piece. If you attend HPT's production, you'll likely understand the reason for that statistic.

Jon Cook shines as Miles, the big-city actor who's working on a performance piece for his theatre collective about farming. He's decided to visit a farm tended by country mice Morgan and Angus, a place where all is not as it appears. As Morgan, Ken Webster (who also directed the production) performs a wonderful balancing act with a multifaceted character; and there's something different about his friend Angus, a difficult role played with equal virtuosity by Michael Stuart. While the basis for the story is familiar (outsider arrives and shakes things up, forcing long-held secrets to be revealed), the three actors deliver a strikingly honest trio of complementary characterizations.

As with many Hyde Park productions, storytelling is at the forefront of the experience. Webster has found the modesty in playwright Michael Healey's narrative and language, and the simplicity that results is perhaps the most golden aspect of the show. Ia Ensterä's set and Don Day's lighting beautifully carry on the simple nature of the play, serving the humility of the proceedings rather than attempting to embellish them. The costumes by A. Skola Summers are purposefully plain and wonderfully matched to the production's aesthetic, as are the occasional sound effects and music from designer Robert S. Fisher. This is a product with a clear vision that has been realized with specificity by all involved.

In many ways, producing "simple" onstage can prove more difficult than producing "spectacle." The latter may require an exponentially larger budget, but the former requires a certain echelon of nuance that must be very specifically calibrated to achieve success. After all, it's not often that interesting to watch a full evening of utilitarian goings-on in more "traditional" theatre frames. Yes, The Drawer Boy contains a lot of heart-to-hearts, and a lot of sitting around and telling of stories. Still, the staging never feels stagnant. To experience this production is to admire the work of fine craftspeople – actors, designers, constructors, and crew persons – who have set out together to tell a simple story in a simple way – and that's no simple task.

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