Kyanite Theatre presents And So It Goes, George F. Walker’s dark comedy about a family’s downward spiral as they cope with mental illness. Playing at the Pia Bauman Scotiabank Studio Theatre, under Walker’s direction, this production has a lot of warmth, but is quite difficult to invest in.
Jeremy Hutton’s sound design opens the show with audio tuning through radio channels: statistics about mental illness jump out at us in the dark, suggesting a world of troubled psyches. Kelly Wolf’s mostly bare set—a few background panels papered in newsprint—seems to represent the troubled world that looms over this family.
Deborah Drakeford and Dan Willmott are Gwen and Ned, the deeply concerned parents of Karen (Tyshia Drake), who suffers from schizophrenia. Of the three, Karen is the least accessible. Her behaviour is frequently hysterical and we are never given a tangible sense of who she was before her illness took over. Though Drakeford and Willmott are often at odds in discussions about how to handle Karen, there is a sense of authentic and cosy compassion in their bickering.
In lieu of professional psychological help, Gwen and Ned seek solace in the figure of the dead novelist Kurt Vonnegut (Scott McCulloch). His presence adds a mildly absurdist element to the story and McCulloch is suitably affable and amusing as he drops kernels of cryptic wisdom.
The second act reveals that Gwen and Ned, in their bewildered grief, have lost their grip on middle-class domestic life and have taken to the streets. Ned becomes a vaguely threatening vigilante, sandwich-board prophet. Gwen tries to instil moral responsibility in her shelter-mates. As their grip on reality weakens, they become increasingly more identifiable and the production as a whole becomes more compelling.
The actors are doing their very best to bring a sense of urgency and human reality to their roles. There are some brief, beautiful moments where I was caught up in their plight, but for the most part I felt too aware of their intentions. Walker’s script seems more concerned with the idea of mental illness and the havoc it can wreak on than on the loaded nuances of precise character.
And So It Goes plays from May 9 to May 26, 2019
at the Pia Bauman Scotiabank Studio Theatre (6 Noble St.)
visit the show page for info and tickets