herald

Monday 10 December 2018

RYAN'S THE HERO IN FLAWED 9/11 DRAMA

Smock Alley Theatre > CHRIS WASSER

Christopher can't get home. He's not the only one. A total of 255 planes have been grounded at 17 airports across Canada. Every civilian flight over US soil has, in fact, been diverted to the nearest available airport. The skies are clear. This really happened - 'Operation Yellow Ribbon', it was called. You know the date.

Christopher may be a fictional character, but as the horrific events of 9/11 play out in the background, we're invited to join the 22-year-old waster from Clontarf on a spiritual awakening that will change the course of his life.

See, Christopher got his best friend, Penny, pregnant. Five minutes with this chap will tell you that he isn't yet ready to become a father.

A selfish, narcissistic "dickhead" (Penny's favourite name for our slick-haired protagonist), Christy's more interested in necking tequila shots with bikini-clad Californian girls and keeping score of his conquests.

Yep, he moved to San Diego, before he even knew of Penny's pregnancy. And now, after months spent pissing everything away, he's decided it might be time to return home. Alas, the world is about to change.

Christopher's plane is mid-flight when New York is attacked. He is to spend the next few days grounded in the small town of Gambo, just north of Gander airport, Newfoundland. And what's the first thing Christy does when he lands? Why, he drinks himself stupid and assaults a female passenger. Charming.

STUNNING

A remarkable act of kindness and humanitarianism, courtesy of the good people of Gambo, will set our boy straight. A night or two at the local Church might even lead to an epiphany.

This is a one-man show, and the athletic Rex Ryan is simply stunning as the beleaguered Christopher. It's a demanding role - one that leaps back and forth through time, taking in countless characters, settings and themes, but Ryan's breathless delivery is a joy to behold.

There are a few lulls - the direction is scattered, the tone is uneven and the narrative isn't always as strong as you would hope, given the subject matter. Too many sub-plots. And there's no need for the gimmicky visuals or recorded voiceovers.

Despite its setbacks, however, Pilgrim somehow manages to make it to the finish line. It's all on Ryan. If there's a single line out of place in this brash yet largely compelling turn, it doesn't show. Funny (no, really), loud (in a good way) and likeable (even when playing the dickhead), Ryan's confidence and magnetism shines through. Keep an eye on this fella.

Running until September 18 HHHII

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