2 min

Crack is whack

But Coke adds life

Credit: Xtra files

Crack cocaine, a primary plot device in Kevin Sheard’s play Jonesing, is a dangerous substance that seems to attract less than upwardly mobile patrons – it’s cheap, it’s exciting and it puts old pop cans to “good” use.

Crack cocaine is similar to the TAGLARC production of Jonesing. Jonesing is cheap because it uses four chairs on an otherwise bare stage. It is exciting because it’s sexual and darkly funny. And of course, the props list of Jonesing includes at least one empty, punctured, old can of Coke. You gotta love a play that recycles.

Basically, two men and two women discover their dysfunctional past within their dysfunctional present as they experience loss, catharsis and rebirth. The beginning of the second act utilizes a surprising theatrical convention that is convincingly supported by Steve Caley’s perfor- mance. His turn as a fledgling drag queen in act one begins as an awkward, somewhat unconvincing caricature, but quickly turns into the kind of youthful, genuine performance we frequently see when beautiful young men make their first entrance into a world of queens. Like many of the performances, Caley’s is layered, rich and effective.

Shannon McDonough, as The Woman, continually stops the show with her huge guffaws, her outrageous screaming and her beautifully wrought verbal and physical presence. This is not an easy script to pull off. Sheard, as director and playwright, has been blessed with some gifted performers.

James Greenwood as The Man seems a little stiff throughout. Gradually this stiffness becomes a natural part of his role as the fussy, hesitant, thrill-seeking gay male out for a dangerous lark. Julie Pinto’s Young Woman possesses a certain charm, but could use some rapid fire delivery here and there in order to make her somewhat pedantic responses, and her longish “bringing up baby” speech work as the kind of wacky, ingenuous diatribes the playwright has crafted.

General pacing needs to be turned up several notches in order to bring the tragedy to fever pitch. Only McDonough achieves this completely, with Caley right behind her, and Greenwood and Pinto lagging just a little.

There are jarring leaps in the script, but bear with these characters as they take you on an artful, comic journey. I can never quite remember how the fortune cookie saying goes: Life is a comedy for those who think and a tragedy for those who feel? Jonesing is both a tragedy and a comedy as it draws dangerous scenarios that run the risk of falling into cliché and stereotype, yet soar above these tendencies thanks to fine performances and a script that dares to say precisely what it feels.

* Jonesing continues until Sun, Dec 7 at Tallulah’s Cabaret (12 Alexander St); call (416) 975-8555.