Intrigue Swirls Around
The Invisible Morrison Jeffrey
~ Laurel Munroe - The Cape Breton Post
It is 1937 in Beldune, U.S.A., and the town's most powerful man, Hilton Hayworth III, has fallen in love with one of his factory workers, one Missus Jessica Porter. But there's a problem: Jessica is married. Divorce not being much of an option for women in the 1930s, Hilton and Jessica plot to kill her husband and Hilton executes the deed. The only witness to the crime is a local newspaper stand operator named Morrison Jeffrey.
Thus begins Duncan Wells's latest play, The Invisible Morrison Jeffrey, which opens tonight with a pay-what-you-can performance and runs nightly through Sunday at UCCB's Boardmore Playhouse. Morrison Jeffrey was originally written as a mentally-challenged 40-year-old, says Wells, but through the rehearsal process, the actor playing the role, John Ratchford, developed a character who "may or may not be mentally challenged, but is one of those 'invisible' people we see every day.
"Morrison has learned to behave as he's expected to behave by the people around him," continues Wells, who also directed the production. "He's smart enough to know that because Hilton Hayworth is so powerful, if he came forward with what he knows about the murder, Hayworth would have him sent to an institution." So Morrison decides to keep the knowledge to himself and, over a period of several years, he actually convinces himself the murder never happened. "He goes through a lot of pain to convince himself he didn't see anything," says Wells, who explores Morrison's inner struggle by showing the audience his solitary poetic and artistic nature. "We get to listen to him as he gives us a good glimpse into the way he looks at life."
Society's treatment of the disadvantaged often borders on patronization, Wells says. "I think we're all guilty . . . we see people like Morrison every day. They're not necessarily mentally challenged; they could be anyone we look upon as being 'invisible.' We'll speak to them as we would a child - or not at all - when we could meet a complete stranger who doesn't have any obvious impairment and say 'Hi, how are you doing?'"
As Morrison battles his demons, the plot thickens. Hilton and Jessica get married, but amidst adultery on both sides, the union ends badly after several years. Jessica expects some compensation but the Hayworth estate is entailed along the male line and (remember, this is the 1930s) she ends up with nothing. Without giving any of the plot twists away, Wells says, "We find out exactly how powerful Hilton Hayworth III really is. When you're writing about the 1930s, you can't ignore how women were treated, especially by the law."
Above all, Wells says, the play is a piece of entertainment, and he expects people to walk away from it with questions. "I hope people go away saying 'Gee, that was a great play but why did that happen and where did he go?' They're going to have questions but I don't think it's my job to answer every one."
Along with Ratchford, the cast includes Angus Capstick, Josie Sobol, Susan Gallop, Bruce Cathcart, Mairi Conrad, Sue Roberts, Rachel MacKinnon, Jason Kempt, Cathy Theriault, George Howie, Ashleen D'Orsay, Peter Hubley, Frazer Andrews and Stephen MacLean.
The Invisible Morrison Jeffrey