Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

The Drawer Boy
Actors Studio 66
Review by Dean Yannias

Versai Knight, Mark Hisler, and Evan Spreen
Photo by Linda Ferro
The Drawer Boy is a 1999 play by Canadian author Michael Healey about two middle-aged men eking out a living on a small farm in southern Ontario in 1972. They are visited by a young member of a theatre ensemble that is creating a play about farming in rural Canada, and she feels that she needs to experience life on a farm in order for her contribution to the play to be true to life. This might not sound like a promising premise, but in the Actors Studio 66 production, playwright Healey, director Marc Comstock, the cast and production team manage to make this into a thoroughly engrossing hour and a half in the theater.

Morgan and Angus have been friends since childhood. They went off to the second world war together (Canada, being part of the British Commonwealth, entered the war shortly after it started in 1939). Afterward, they came back to Canada, bought a farm and have lived there together ever since. We almost immediately find out that Angus has no short-term memory and very little long-term memory either. He is, however, brilliant at remembering numbers and doing calculations in his head. Has he always been this way, or did something happen to cause his condition?

Along comes Miles, the young actor. (The part has usually been played by a man, but here by a woman, and it makes no difference.) Miles shows up at the house and asks if she can help out on the farm, learning things like how to drive a tractor (disastrous), milking cows, collecting eggs, and stacking bales of hay. Since Angus can't remember anything, every evening Morgan relates to him the story of their youth and the war and how they came to be where they are. Is the story true, or a fabrication?

Miles overhears this story and incorporates it into her play. Angus and Morgan are invited to the rehearsal. Angus recognizes that it is about him, and this brings about a change in the lives of all three characters. It turns out that The Drawer Boy is at least partly about the power of theatre to transform the people watching it, to help them recognize themselves and seek the truth about who they are. I was left wondering if it is always better to know the truth. Sometimes a story makes life easier to deal with.

This might not sound like the plot of a comedy, but much of the play is quite funny, in a wry way. Evan Spreen as Morgan is droll in his dealings with Miles, and Versai Knight as Miles has a hilarious scene when she is internalizing (as actors do) "cowhood." Mark Hisler elicits laughs as the forgetful Angus, but I have to admit that I felt a little guilty laughing at his disability.

All three actors have moments of tenderness, compassion, and dramatic intensity. There is an especially lovely scene in which Miles recounts the story of Hamlet to Angus, who takes it as factual. "Did you really kill your stepfather?" As the play reaches its climax, the comedy is left behind, and it's straight-out drama, gripping for both the characters and the audience.

The set by Mary Rossman and Linda Wilson is perfect. Lighting by Ray Rey Griego and sound by Josh Brown are also excellent, as are the costumes by Jacob Dunlap. Marc Comstock does a fine job directing a fine cast. Versai Knight and Evan Spreen are new on the theatre scene in Albuquerque, and I hope we see them often. Mark Hisler is always a welcome presence on our stages.

You may not have heard of this play. I certainly hadn't. One of the things I'm grateful for is that we have adventurous companies like Actors Studio 66 to introduce us to little-known plays that are well worth seeing.

The Drawer Boy, presented by Actors Studio 66, runs through April 9, 2023, at Black Cat Cultural Center, 3011 Monte Vista NE, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30, Sunday at 2:00. Tickets $20. For tickets and information, please visit