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The Drawer Boy
The Drawer Boy is a story about stories. It’s a sly look at what constitutes a story and what makes a story important.
Should a story be judged on its truth, its entertainment value or the desired effect it has on its intended audience? To whom does the story belong? And what are the obligations of the storyteller?
The master storyteller of The Drawer Boy is playwright Michael Healey, who has crafted a clever slice of life that brings an overly earnest actor into the lives of two staid farmers.
It begins as a fish-out-of-water tale when aspiring actor Miles (Craig Watkinson) seeks out “real” farmers he can observe for playwriting inspiration. He stumbles upon the perfect down-home Canadian farm in the middle of nowhere, where two farmers are minding their own business as well as their herd of cows.
In a series of short scenarios, we’re introduced to no-nonsense Morgan (Owen Murphy) and his mentally slow partner, Angus (Warren Sweeney). Because of a wartime head injury, Angus lives only in the present, with Morgan supplying him with his past through repeated stories.
Miles feels he’s struck gold as he watches and listens to the two farmers, following them around with a notebook, writing scenes and becoming cow-like in his method-acting moments. And old farmer Morgan can’t help but yank Miles’ chain when it comes to farming secrets.
Just when this play looks like it’s going down the goofy path of wacky actor, quirky farmer and misunderstood simpleton, it takes an interesting turn. Miles overhears a story not meant for his ears, “borrows” it for his play without permission and opens up secrets long buried.
The play evolves into a story of storytelling; of friendships and betrayal; of secrets and lies; and of hurts, forgiveness and loyalty.
In order to pull all of this off, it takes a delicate balance of humor and pathos, which Healey delivers, and actors who can tread the fine lines, which this cast does.
Though his character is the most underdeveloped, Watkinson gives us a believable naïve, citified actor who is more interested in his art than in real life. Murphy is strong as storytelling Morgan, the low-key keeper of the farm, of Angus and of secrets. And Sweeney, who has the most challenging part—not making Angus into a stereotype of the simple-minded—creates a sympathetic character the audience ends up caring about.