Don't miss The Crackwalker!

The Crackwalker

Studio B Theater Co.
Written by Judith Thompson
Directed by Steff Salo
Cast: Matthew Vurajic  as Alan, Collin Halfday as The Man, Derek Roberts as Joe, Stephanie Simonetta  as Sandy, and Kiersten Rozell  as Theresa
Where: Fanshawe College Theater, Citi Plaza
When: Aug 9-11, 7 p.m. (plus 2 p.m. matinee Sat.)

Spoiler Alert!

Note: This performance includes nudity, sexual content, foul language, and fake smoke. This is for a mature audience only; do not bring your children!

Well, having read that advisory, I was immediately intrigued.

The Crackwalker, written by celebrated Canadian playwright Judith Thompson in 1980, is a rare glimpse into the lives of the destitute. The play puts a microscope on the lives of two couples who are deeply flawed. Bad-boy Joe likes to beat on women, Sandy hates weak men; a match made in hell. In the beginning, you feel like these two characters are worse off than sweet but slow Theresa, and Alan, who always seems to mean well, despite his efforts to make the peace every time Joe gets out of control.

Things are not always as they appear.

The Crackwalker’s intimate look into these two down-and-out couples living in Kingston, Ontario takes place before cell phones, Google access to information, HIV/AIDS awareness. Their reality: how to score another smoke, drink, hit, even a donut.

Poor and uneducated, Alan and Theresa are suffering from mental disorders. Red flags are raised when Alan passive-aggressively handles Joe's attack on Theresa. There is a history of abuse between these two people, and Alan always sneaks out of confronting Joe.

Alan seems sweet in the beginning, serenading a sleeping Theresa, but in reality, he is more troubled than all of them.

As Alan and Theresa spin out of control, conversely, Joe and Sandy seem to mature. This play examines the difficultly of dealing with violent and self-destructive behavior, and for Alan and Theresa, a mental disability on top of that. Sandy and Joe manage to fight their way to the surface of the murky swamp. Sadly, the end of the story is much more tragic for Theresa and Alan.

But sad as the story is, there are moments of levity.

Like a single flower blooming in a field destroyed by a forest fire, the songs from Sandy and Alan held a kind of beauty that is only experienced when suffering long, and enduring pain. These moments were brief, but extremely powerful.

All of these actors have incredible chemistry on stage, and nailed their characters. I was extremely impressed with Derek Roberts’s body language; from his facial expressions, way of moving and walking – everything he did was just spectacular.

One thing that struck me as odd was the Moosehead case that the Canadian beers were coming out of. I couldn’t help but think that something cheaper like Busch would have been more appropriate.

Other than that the props and costumes were excellent. From the dirty, ripped wife beaters, the broken heels and skanky outfits – the tone was set. The music choices were also fantastic – the Cranberries, Bob Dylan and all sorts of tortured souls played to the drama occurring onstage.

I would have liked a more emotional response to the tragedy at the end from Sandy and Joe, because it was so intense that it would have required pulling out all the stops. The unimaginable nightmare they were dealing with was not an easy scene to pull off, granted, but I wanted a little more from them.

This is a lengthy play, but I never glanced at my watch once – another surefire indication that the play is well worth seeing.

/  4

Sara Piszel studied English at York University. She currently resides in London where there is an abundance of art to explore and write about.

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