~ By Gayle Bird ~
April 15-21 - UCCB Boardmore Playhouse
[The Cape Breton Post] [Halifax Chronicle Herald]
The Invisible Morrison Jeffrey, written and directed by Duncan Wells, is playing right now at the Boardmore playhouse. Full of corruption, gossip, and innocence, it's a pleasureable look into the world surrounding a mentally challenged man who witnesses a murder, and then, in fear, convinces himself he hasn't seen anything.
John Ratchford plays Morrison slightly differently than the way it was written, but Wells assures us it's in a way that "compliments the script and manages to remain true to the character" - and John is stunning at it. When you watch him struggle to make himself understood, or limp to his newsstand, or laugh and blush at the kindness of others, you will instantly recognize him as someone in your community with a similar affliction. Sometimes, his difficulties are almost painful to watch, in a way that even empathy can't describe; in the same way, his triumphs are that much sweeter. Says Wells,
"Morrison is a composite of people I know. His gentle being, his understanding of people, his desire for privacy and independence, his creativity and his intelligence - all of these things are taken from people I am aquainted with."
Aside from John's performance, what stole the show for me was Mairi Conrad, one of the two 8-year-old-girls who, on alternate nights, play Morrison's young friend Tessa. She was, in fact, one of the most natural actors on the stage. It was truly wonderful to watch, and the bond between Tessa and Morrison was beautiful and believable. I hope to sneak in to catch the other young actress, Ashleen D'Orsay, before the run is through.
The set, of course, is really neat. I was completely enjoying the murals representing storefronts and learned later they had been painted by Dominion artist Kenny Boone. There's even an extra "room" on the set, created cleverly with a doorway and a corner that is hiding itself until it's used. The downstairs crew had a tendency to whisper; I'd suggest not sitting too close in the pit to the well at stage right.
The large cast envelop the various characters quite well. Humourous highlights live in The Missuses: a handful of slightly elderly, bickering, gossiping women. More than a few of their scenes had me in stitches – great lines, great actors. Also delightful were the musical choices that opened most scenes, lighthearted dixieland wartime tunes that kept the audience - and the actors - bopping happily.
Highly enjoyable, was this play, with several subtle messages about people who are different, about class distinctions, and about society as a whole. I'm not sure I'm completely satisfied with the ending, but perhaps I'm asking too much. Wells certainly doesn't condescend to the audience, and that's much appreciated.
The Invisible Morrison Jeffrey