Gordon a criminally funny family drama

Ben Stevens and Joe Perry in Gordon.

Ben Stevens and Joe Perry in Gordon. Photo credit: Ian Jackson.

Patience has paid off for Theatre Network, who is mounting Morris Panych’s Gordon at The Roxy on Gateway April 26 – May 15. Theatre Network’s Artistic Director, Bradley Moss, first looked at the play for the company’s 2010 season, but circumstances didn’t align for Theatre Network to present the show until this season. But instead of becoming dated in the six years that have passed since then, the play is more relevant than ever to Albertans today, with our current economic climate being relatable to that of Hamilton, where the play takes place, following the decline of the city’s steel industry.

Bradley explains, “I don’t think we in Alberta would have understood it in 2010 the way we do now in the sense that when you have a loss of economic opportunity, crime spikes up right behind that because in our society we’re inundated with all of the commercials showing the life you’re supposed to have.”

Gordon is about a young man (Gordon) who goes about trying to achieve that dream life through the proceeds of his budding criminal empire (currently comprised of friend Carl and girlfriend Deirdre) and the lengths to which his father (Gord) will go to stop his son from doing so.

Bradley describes the thrust of the play as being, “A reconciliation gone bad. The son returns home from college or prison – take your pick – and it’s a bit of the fairy tale of the prodigal son returns home to start a new life after school/prison only for his father to come to realize that perhaps Gordon is deeper into being a criminal than his father even fantasized. I think that’s what Morris is talking about is what we all do – whether it’s parents, or family, or friends – how we cut people a lot of slack. The father constantly says Gordon was a tough little guy but he thought he’d grow out of it. But no, he didn’t grow out of it, he grew worse. He’s looking at all of those discussions of environment versus your chromosomes that come up.” The play also tackles ideas such as the perceived importance of passing on your family name, the effects of an absent parent, and abortion.

When Gord comes to the realization that he must ‘deal with’ his son and the criminal empire he’s building, the effects are unexpected and teeming with situational humour. “It’s high stakes right off the start of the play – they’ve just done a robbery/murder – and right off the gate, the whole thing is in an extraordinary land where you can have a lot of fun things happen. The show is not a heavy experience – it’s a funny and surprising night.”

Patricia Cerra, Joe Perry, and Brian Dooley in Gordon.

Patricia Cerra, Joe Perry, and Brian Dooley in Gordon. Photo credit: Ian Jackson

Theatre Network’s production of Gordon features Patricia Cerra (Deirdre), Brian Dooley (Gord), Joe Perry (Gordon), and Ben Stevens (Carl). With the exception of Brian, all are new to Theatre Network and Bradley says that’s resulted in an “extra excitement” in the rehearsal space, “There’s an extra excitement in the room, a crackle because there’s a whole bunch of new people doing this play. It’s a fun play. Morris has got a unique way of phrasing things with lines and really unexpected twists. Characters say certain things with lines and you have to learn that it’s slightly counterintuitive.”

As has happened with every show in Theatre Network’s 41st season, Gordon will see the playing space in another new configuration, something they couldn’t do at The Roxy Theatre. For Gordon, The Roxy on Gateway will be configured as a corner stage, versus alley for The Last Five Years and thrust stage for Klondykes. Bradley says this adds another dimension for the audience, “It’s fun that we get to play around and audiences get to have a unique viewing experience for each show.”

Gordon plays at The Roxy on Gateway (8529 Gateway Boulevard) April 28 – May 15. Previews are April 26 and 27. Tickets are $24 – $28 through Theatre Network’s box office. Tickets on Tuesdays (May 3 and 10) are two-for-one.

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