Review: Thunderstick (Thunderstick Collective & Culture Storm)

photo of Brandon Oakes and Craig Lauzon in Kenneth T. Williams' Thunderstick by Glen Gould

Comedy at its best in Thunderstick, playing at Toronto Free Gallery theatre

Thunderstick is a play about two cousins chasing a news story. The story is a gem, taking place in the dangerous Ontario woods and the even scarier Parliament Hill. Likewise, Toronto Free Gallery is a gem in an up and coming Toronto neighbourhood.

Toronto Free Gallery is a fascinating venue. As you enter, you are greeted by people with huge smiles. In record time, those people become friends. The front room is an art gallery. I don’t get to galleries nearly often enough, so this was a nice bonus.

The cozy theatre is in the back. Once you enter, you’ll meet even more new friends. My partner for the evening, Larry, and I certainly did. The entire space is warm and welcoming. Every person inside was splendid.

Another refreshing element of Thunderstick is that the cast and crew are comprised of Aboriginal peoples. New and different viewpoints are always great to discover. It was illuminating and rewarding.

The set is deceptively simple. Long two-by-fours, wrapped with newspapers line the sides of the stage. At times they are the “noise” of Parliament Hill. Later, they are the bars of jail cells and a Muskoka forest.

Andy Moro, who has done amazing work with VideoCabaret, has once again created something special. The set is minimal yet highly evocative. It allows the audience to use our imagination. It also allows the writing and acting to shine.

Thunderstick was written by Kenneth T. Williams. It’s the story of two cousins, two souls, on a journey. Isaac (Craig Lauzon) is an accomplished photojournalist. Jacob (Brandon Oakes) is a struggling and alcoholic reporter. The two are reunited after years and end up chasing a groundbreaking political story.

The writing and delivery are equally hilarious. There are elements of Bruce McDonald movies, the brilliant Tim Robbins movie Bob Roberts and other road stories. Thunderstick will hopefully be coming to the big screen soon, as it has been optioned as a feature film project. It will be great to brag, “I saw that when…”

Lauzon is a Royal Canadian Air Farce alumnus. We liked him a lot, but I thought he still had some of the rhythm or “feel” of that troupe in his delivery.

Larry and I agreed that Oakes was spectacular as Jacob. He plays a drunk in an authentic way, while also being intelligent and human. He is exceptionally engaging.

Overall, we thought that seeing Thunderstick was a bit like visiting an amusement park. It’s a bit out of the way, it’s a bit dangerous, and somebody gets thrown up on. Afterwards, we were a bit sore from all the fun and laughter.

Thunderstick is, as billed, a “raunchy comedy”. It is a hilarious party for smart people who like to explore, laugh until it hurts and make new friends. For those of us occupying less desirable spots on the totem pole, this play is a perfect night out.

I strongly recommend checking out Thunderstick while Toronto Free Gallery is still spreading the glee.

 Details:

  • Thunderstick is playing at Toronto from January 19 – February 3 at Toronto Free Gallery, 1277 Bloor Street (at Lansdowne)
  • Shows run Tuesday – Sunday at 8pm with Sunday Matinees at 2:00pm
  • tickets are $15-$20 and can be purchased at: http://www.secureaseat.com/thunderstick/

-photo of Brandon Oakes and Craig Lauzon By Glen Gould