“Visiting Mr. Green“, currently playing at the Domino Theatre, is a solid play that is both topical and poignant, yet quite accessible in its touches of comedy and familiarity. Written by Jeff Baron in 1996, one can readily see its attraction as a play so widely translated and produced around the world. It is sophisticated in its subject matter and themes, yet pleasantly simple in its execution on the stage. Whether it is a play you are familiar with or not, it is most definitely a highlight of this season’s playbill at Domino.
Ross is a young executive working his way up the corporate ladder, who is sentenced to community service hours to be spent with Mr. Green after he almost hits the elderly widower with his car. Both characters are written with a great deal of personality, clever and meaningful dialogue, and rich subtext. Each has his own colorful history, unique perspective, and significant internal struggles.
The role of Mr. Green is a plum opportunity for Bill Morrow to demonstrate his craft and put on a virtual acting clinic. He is completely engaged – and therefore engaging – in every element of his performance. His physicality, vocal quality and variety, and meticulous pacing are mesmerizing. His responses and mannerisms often divulge more than many of his lines. The first act is an absolute treat as Morrow slowly reveals layer after layer of a character who might in many instances be rather unlikeable – but here, he is as comfortable as one of his own trademark sweaters.
His counterpart, Ian Cuthbertson as Ross, is technically proficient throughout and is able to hold his own, but he seemed to lack the same emotional depth in his delivery. He appeared to play at a single speed for the most part, with little shape or variation, particularly in his reactions to obviously significant comments, actions, and events. The portrayal of Ross has the potential to be just as poetic as that of Mr. Green, but in this production it reads as efficient prose.
One challenge inherent in the play is its episodic nature, comprised of a total of nine scenes across the two acts (some of which are quite brief). Although the play’s director, Pauline Jodoin, has been very economical and effective in her staging and the management of pace within the action of the play, the business of the scene changes is cumbersome. Completed by as many stage hands as cast members, in full visibility and at an apparently casual pace, one can’t help but be drawn back out of Apartment 4A and into the Domino auditorium. Fortunately for everyone involved, the power of Morrow’s performance quickly suspends disbelief once again as the next scene begins.
James Gow’s set for the show is quite brilliant in and of itself. However, the script calls for something a little less remarkable and shiny, and this lovely apartment isn’t necessarily suited to the widower who has been on his own for months, incapable of cleaning and caring for himself. A few piles of newspaper, sweaters placed neatly on the back of a couch, and stacks of phonebooks not only fall short of a truly messy home, but they also leave limited opportunity to demonstrate the change in a man’s life through a corresponding change in his environment. The same can be said of the lighting, which is fairly constant throughout – despite a few lines suggesting that it is quite dim when Ross first enters Mr. Green’s world, which later becomes a much brighter place. The musical selections of sound designer Kaitlyn Palmer, on the other hand, are artistically representative of this odd couple, offering a classical arrangement of contemporary sounds that are nicely matched with the varying tones throughout the play.
In the end, the skillful performance of a seasoned actor in the powerful lead role of a smart and touching script makes for an entertaining evening of live theatre. The small but appreciative audience enjoyed themselves on the evening that I attended, and I’m sure that you will too – especially if you have a keen interest in the art of stagecraft as demonstrated by a true practitioner such as Mr. Morrow. (4/5 Stars)
“Visiting Mr. Green” written by Jeff Baron and directed by Pauline Jodoin, runs at Domino Theatre in Kingston from Jan 9th to 25th, Thurs to Sat inclusive, at 8 pm…Full cast and crew can be seen here…Tickets available at the Grand Theatre Box Office online or by calling 613-530-2050…