If your teenage son was murdered by his fellow student a few months after you lost your spouse to cancer, could you ever find forgiveness? Is it possible to understand the factors that drove a young man to kill? Grey, a Toronto Fringe Festival play by Three Five Productions, asks audiences to consider more than just black and white answers before we pass judgment.
Beginning at the parole hearing, we work backwards to discover why Richard Buttle killed Jayden Alexander twelve years ago. While Buttle takes the blame for his actions, it becomes apparent there were many social and psychological forces are at play.
Grey invites contentious questions. Does bullying legitimize responding with anger? To what extent can a disability become an excuse? And how do parents’ good intentions for their children sometimes produce the opposite outcome? The play interrogates the notions we have of personal responsibility and asks us to reevaluate our assumptions.
The title also alludes to racial biases that audiences may bring to their interpretation of the characters. The killer was white. His victim was black. It could have been easy to hang the conflict on this racial divide. But playwright Chantal Forde plays with assumptions, considering racial tensions as an influential factor, but also holding characters responsible for their own actions.
She explores how racial identity affects the choices we make. Is it safer for a black family to move to a predominantly white neighborhood, where their son will be one of the few black kids in school, but where there are fewer gangs around to harm him? The answers to these questions are never black and white.
The cast in this performance is strong across the board. Kion Flatts, as Jayden, depicted the doomed teen both as a respectful son and a threatening teammate. Kenton Blythe roused empathy through the social awkwardness and frustrations of Richard’s character.
Many of the performers inhabited multiple roles, shifting seamlessly between portraying dispassionate lawyers in courtroom scenes and family members in flashbacks. This reminded me to put myself into the shoes of others, to consider what factors may have led to the behaviors we see.
In the end, how you judge Richard Buttle will be equally influenced by the extenuating factors in your own life. Grey will stir your emotions and invite you to reconsider the infinite shades that exist between black and white.
- Grey plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace. (16 Ryerson Ave.)
- Tickets are $12. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Scadding Court, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warning: Mature Language.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible. Accessible seating is in the very front row.
- Friday July 7th, 08:00 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 04:00 pm
- Monday July 10th, 03:15 pm
- Wednesday July 12th, 05:45 pm
- Thursday July 13th, 12:00 pm
- Saturday July 15th, 11:00 pm
- Sunday July 16th, 02:45 pm
Photo of Mandy Roveda, Kenton Blythe, Kion Flatts, and Andrea Carter by Tim Cadeny