The Invisible Morrison Jeffrey
Written & Directed by Duncan Wells

Ratchford Brings Vision To UCCB's
The Invisible Morrison Jeffrey

~ Mark Anderson - The Chronicle Herald

The year is 1937, Morrison Jeffrey is a handicapped man operating a newspaper kiosk in the small town of Beldane. One night, he accidentally witnesses a murder.

The opening scenes in The Invisible Morrison Jeffrey, running to Sunday at UCCB's Boardmore Playhouse in Sydney, give the audience the benefit of some inside information: we see the town's most prominent businessman, Hilton Hayworth III, and his mistress, Jessica Porter, plotting to kill Mr. Porter.

We then witness the murder, along with Morrison. What follows is an examination of the mental landscape of the next 10 years of Morrison's life and his battle to deal with his terrible secret.

Morrison's condition (ceberal palsy? - we are not told) causes him to be spastic and to have difficulty speaking. He lives at home with his mother and spends his non-working hours drawing. These drawings line one wall of his room. The character's simple life is shaken by what he has seen.

Behind a multi-locked door, Morrison talks to himself incessantly, running through the event in his mind. We witness an internal struggle to repress a painful memory. In utter desperation, Morrison beats himself on the side of the head with his fist. But the memory will not go away. Mr. Potter's picture hangs on the wall, a symbolic reminder of the burden.

Written and directed by Duncan Wells, The Invisible Morrison Jeffrey parallels it's lead character. Like Morrison Jeffrey, the play is philosophically brave and practically challenged. It's strength lies almost entirely in the character of Morrison (played by John Ratchford) and his personal examination of power in small town society.

Morrison wants Hayworth to face the consequences of what he has done but feels he can never be heard. In a poignant scene, Morrison catches a fly in his fist. With the captured fly in hand, he delivers a soliloquy about the cruelty of life. God doesn't care about creatures without brains, Morrison tells us. He lifts his fist high and crushes the fly with the words: "Silenced by the hand of God."

Dark philosophical explorations such as these are presented alongside sterotypical smalltown America characters right out of Our Town, or worse, The Music Man. Perhaps Wells used up all his juice on the character of Morrison: most characters in this play deliver lines that are either stilted or unrealistic. Despite major shortcomings and some weak acting, the production is a success. This success rests almost soley on Ratchford's considerable talents. He resues a struggling cast, distracting us from the play's weaknesses by emphasizing it's strengths.

As the lights dimmed from Ratchford's solo scenes, the audience clapped almost every time, ignoring usual theatre protocol. Ratchford's ability to bring this character to life invites comparrison to John Malkovich's portrayal of George in Of Mice and Men. We find ourselves liking Morrison Jeffrey - we are comfortable laughing with (not at) his unique take on the world, and his attempts to pack a bag of clothes and to blow out birthday candles inspire laughter and sympathy. We are saddened by his feelings of desperation, and we find a simple wisdom in his honest words. Fortunately, The Invisible Morrison Jeffrey is quite visible in most of the play.

The Invisible Morrison Jeffrey