2 min

Homo ‘n’ rural

Drinking yourself to death on the family farm

Credit: Guntar Kravis

Canada has become one of the world’s most urbanized countries, but we continue to cast yearning glances at our rural past. Gay men, similarly, move away from their families and later find themselves revisiting their pasts, in flesh or in spirit, trying to figure out what went wrong.

In Homage, a gay writer named Jim (Tom Barnett, of The Drawer Boy) has bucked urbanization, returning from a failed life in Toronto to the family farm to reconnect with his roots while drinking himself to death on a promiscuous assortment of gins. His accountant (Andy Velasquez), a square of Sicilian origin who has been a son to Jim’s mother in his absence, tells Jim his finances are a mess. That comes as no surprise given the newspaper-and-bottle-strewn state of the living room.

Jim’s mother (Anne Anglin) and father (Bob Naismith) are dead by this point, but the play provides glimpses into their last days: In the opening scene Anglin toils quietly in the kitchen, showcasing David Oiye’s daringly slow-paced direction. “I’m afraid that everything’s slipping away,” she says, referring at once to the rural dilemma and her husband’s failing health. Both parents are perfectly cast; Naismith has the ailing dad nailed, and Anglin makes a charming middle-Canadian mother on her way to madness. David Fraser’s set, a decayed farmhouse with the roof ripped right off, also deserves a nod.

The emotionally stunted WASP mother and her gay son share the stage but never interact, emphasizing the emotional distance between them. Jim’s the sort of man I’d ask out on a date: cute in a bulky-sweater sort of way, witty, self-destructive. Cigarette in hand, Barnett plays him ably with a dash of Norma Desmond, putting on big-city airs as he flirts with the accountant. Things get a touch maudlin when he mixes booze with pills, à la Valley Of The Dolls. “I came here looking for something, but when I got here I realized it had died before she had,” he laments, his bitchy façade eroded.

For all its strengths, the production has plenty of flaws, in particular a revelation at the end that’s patently implausible. As for the dialogue, a number of times I found myself thinking, “Oh, he’d never say that.” There’s something romantic about the idea of drinking yourself to death at the family farm, if only the country weren’t so very dreary.

Homage continues until Sun, Oct 20 at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre; call (416) 975-8555.