The Hobby Horse presents Tears of a Bullet, a play written by Josh Downing and directed by Jeff Kennes, a heavy story with a lot of weighty subject matter. Based loosely on the final years of sci-fi writer Thomas Disch, this production looks at the lives of people from various oppressed groups and how systematically they end up oppressing each other. This revealing story is on stage at the Tarragon Theatre Extraspace playing as part of the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival.
Jim Abernathy (Stephen Flett) is a former writer, a man with nothing much to live for. The love of his life has died and left Jim squatting in his old apartment that is slowly going to ruin. Jim spends his time writing bits and pieces with no determinable ending and leaving imaginary voicemails to his beloved on a disconnected phone line. The building superintendent Danny Davis (Adrian Leckie) is tasked with forcing Jim to leave by the end of the month with the promise of a bonus check, a check that his pregnant wife Louise (Chantel McDonald) is eager to obtain.
The heart of this play takes place in the discussions between Jim and Danny, and Jim and Louise. This discussions pit Louise’s heartfelt Christian beliefs against Jim’s homosexuality, and Jim noting that as Danny and Louise are Black they are an oppressed group as well now forcing a man to live on the streets.
I quite enjoyed Flett’s performance as Jim, and despite a few hiccups in his lines here and there, his portrayal of this broken and desolate man is heartbreaking. When his interactions with Louise and Danny peak, the fervor in his voice shows his drive and tenacity that comes from being a writer is still there.
I also liked McDonald as Louise, in particular when her conversations with Jim ultimately reveal her search for her brother. Despite her Christian beliefs leading her to being unable to accept her brother’s sexuality, her love for him and determination to find him is clear.
I felt disconnected with some of the staging and sound choices used throughout. The mess around Jim’s lived-in writing desk was a great touch but I didn’t understand the various phone cords hanging from the ceiling. Is it supposed to represent hanging clothing, and if so, why not just use hanging clothing? Why would there be phone cords everywhere?
As for the sound, the doorway to Jim’s apartment was towards the left, but the sound of the knocking and keys in door were recorded sounds that came from the right. This is a very nit-picky thing to pick up on, and though it was noticeable to me, it didn’t take away from the play itself.
Tears of a Bullet is a meaningful story that’s well performed. Though the subject matter is heavy, it’s worth exploring. I enjoyed it, you probably will, too.
- Tears of a Bullet plays at the Tarragon Theatre Extraspace. (30 Bridgman Ave.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (707 Dundas St. W.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warnings: Mature language; Gunshots.
- This venue is barrier-free. Patrons who use wheelchairs or who cannot climb stairs are seated in the front row.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Thursday July 5th, 9:00 pm
- Saturday July 7th, 3:45 pm
- Sunday July 8th, 6:30 pm
- Monday July 9th, 12:45 pm
- Wednesday July 11th, 7:45 pm
- Thursday July 12th, 11:15 pm
- Saturday July 14th, 2:00 pm
Photo of Adrian Leckie and Stephen Flett by Elyse Roy