Criminals in Love

Warning: This review may contain spoilers.

by George F. Walker
Performed by Joel Armstrong, Kerri Tviet, Nick Regan, Megan Maloney, Caroline Murray and Aaron Strayus
Directed by Dave Walker
A New Generation Theatre production
Oct 11 – 14 at 8 pm + Oct 14 at 2 pm at The Arts Project

The name George Walker is always enough to get my husband and I out to an alternative theatre production, even in a drenching downpour. But not all Walker plays are equal as I learned from going to opening night of this exuberant student production at The Arts Project (technically, the New Generation Theatre is made up of Fanshawe College graduates, not students, but these players are still at the beginning of their theatrical apprenticeship).

Criminals in Love was an interesting but somewhat muddled look at the realities of growing up in a criminal culture — struggling to get free, but not making it in the end. The play was full of clever dialogue and fascinating characters, vividly brought to life by a uniformly excellent cast. But the script did not have the tight structure of later Walker plays, and more important, it did not have the cool detachment that characterizes his more mature work (this one was first performed in 1984). I found myself wondering: is this autobiographical? A sure indication that there was not enough objectivity in the text.

The play started out well but became increasingly chaotic as if the playwright wasn’t sure where to take his characters once he got them off the ground. A good case in point: in the final scene, the hero Junior confides to his girlfriend, "I think that I could kill somebody. I¹m capable of that". Really?! That’s an interesting thought. To tell the truth, I am troubled by the same thought myself. Too bad Junior didn¹t mention this in the first scene and then explore some of its ramifications throughout the play. As it stands, it is a throw away line that happens two minutes to curtain time — a complete waste dramatically.

But I still recommend this production. It has a lot of energy, creativity and verve. I especially liked Caroline Murray in the role of the teenage prostitute — she understood her character and did not sentimentalize. Joel Armstrong as the alcoholic bum was also sympathetic — more effort to make him look his age would’ve been good, but his passionate acting compensated for that flaw. The main lovers, Nick Regan as Junior and Kerri Tviet as Gail, were both great. All that making out on the couch was very authentic and lots of fun to watch! Aaron Strayus as the jailbird father was convincing and Megan Maloney as Whineva, the crazy criminal master mind was outstanding although I felt that the ambivalence of this character was not perfectly rendered by the text. But these are quibbles — it was good to see the New Generation players tackle this problematic play by a young and inexperienced playwright who, like themselves, had tons of promise. Bravo!