A Good Way Out — A review

I went to the preview showing for Pacific Theatre’s season opener, “A Good Way Out” by Cara Norrish. The play was apparently inspired by Norrish’s real life relationship with the protagonist and a desire to work out her feelings surrounding the events. This is a timely and honest play, with – at least in the preview — a good deal of room for growth yet.

Carl Kennedy is always a good choice for acting in Vancouver. He’s no stranger to the PT stage, and was well matched with the role of Joey, the charismatic lead who is faced with the difficult choices of gang life in Canada. His anxiety was present, as well as his firm resolve.

His wife Carla, played by Evelyn Chew, accessed some real depths of (un)feeling with compromising emotional positions she had to access. I longed to see more connection between the husband and wife rather than constant bickering, a sentiment which admittedly was shared by the characters as well.

Another character perpetually embroiled in conflict was that of Joey’s sister Lynette, played by Corina Akeson. Lynette, beyond being the “token Christian” character, provided a perspective on the reality of the tough choices and complexity of the lives of the above characters.

Chad Ellis, channeling “Jesse” from Breaking Bad, seemed like his character was always just out of reach for him, but showed an admirable earnestness. Where some critics have marvelled at the complete transformation of Andrew Wheeler as the leather jacket wearing, bandana’d “Larry”, I found his gruff attitude never fully made its way out of stereotype. And fair enough, playing a scumbag is hard, let alone humanizing him. But for the play to work, it really needed that human dimension which I found unfortunately lacking.

Norrish deserves credit for tackling a story that was both complex and personal to her. But unfortunately, the script felt like it relied too heavily upon an idea of how gang member’s might act rather than crafting vibrant and living characters. The protest and eventual acceptance of drug money, the bully tactics of a manipulative gang leader, the characters well-rehearsed accusations all feel like they’ve been seen before rather than drawing upon wells of deep emotional history. This over-reliance on clichés runs the risk of doing the opposite of the plays aim: that is de-humanizing instead of humanizing. And so when Larry coercively asks Carla for a lap dance it feels like exhibitionism rather than realism.

But the final scene between Larry and Lynette plunges the play beneath the simplistic surface to a complex conclusion. It is here where we see a real wrestling and churning. Where the characters often felt canned, the final plot points do not. In a feeling and authentic way, the play finally addresses the complexity and difficulty for everyone, Christians included, in addressing the problem of evil.

Originally published in Regent College’s Et Cetera