Bone Cage is the story of a group of young adults trying to seek out a place for themselves in a barren community in the midst of decline. The play, written by Canadian playwright Catherine Banks and directed by Hart House Theatre alumnus Matt White, made its Toronto premiere last Friday.
Set in rural Nova Scotia, the play focuses on Chicky, played by the talented Samantha Coyle, and her friends and family as they navigate through life in a declining logging town. The highlight of the production is the far and away Layne Coleman as Chicky’s aging stepfather, Clarence, who spends most of his time imagining what life would be like if his son, Travis, were still alive. Coleman manages to steal every scene that he’s in with a performance that’s both believable and extremely moving. The women of the show, Samantha Coyle and Lindsey Middleton, who portray Chicky and her brother’s fiancée respectively, both handle the material well.
Unfortunately, the other men of the show, namely Nathan Bitton and Kyle Purcell, who play Chicky’s brother Jamie and his best friend Kevin respectively, falls a bit short. As Jamie, Bitton has moments of believable anger and self-doubt, but often lapses into a performance in which his acting is forced and not entirely believable. Purcell, while also having his stronger moments, tended towards the melodramatic too often to properly do the show justice.
Ultimately, Hart House’s production of Bone Cage shows the play for what it is: a gripping look into the lives of young-adults struggling to survive in an increasingly unforgiving environment. It is well staged, and has many insightful scenes, courtesy of director Matt White and actors Coleman and Coyle. However, the ultimate potential of the show is somewhat undermined by the weak performances from the male actors, leaving the audience with the feeling that while they could have witnessed a great piece of theatre, they instead were treated to something somewhat half-hearted.