December 2 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 52  

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It's worth the Risk

Risk Everything
Starring: Linda Ham, Rachel Holden-Jones, Jayson McDonald, Simon Goodwin
Written by: George F. Walker
Directed by: Jeff Culbert, Ausable Theatre

By Maggie Wrobel
Gazette Staff

Gazette file photo
YOU’D BE PISSED TOO IF YOUR MOM WAS A CRIMINAL. Rachel Holden-Jones (left) and Linda Ham star in Risk Everything.

How do you follow up a near perfect first effort? If you’re director Jeff Culbert, you do the same thing twice.

Well, not exactly the same thing. In January of 2003, Culbert’s production company Ausable Theatre put on a stellar production of Canadian playwright George F. Walker’s Problem Child, a touching and disturbing social drama. The play received rave reviews all over town and this glowing reception is likely part of what caused Culbert to revisit Walker’s Suburban Motel, a collection of six plays that includes Problem Child and Culbert’s two latest efforts: Risk Everything and The End of Civilization (running concurrently at The Grand Theatre’s McManus Studio).

Risk is the direct sequel to Problem Child and zeroes in once again on working-class couple Denise (Holden-Jones) and R.J. Reynolds (McDonald), with Denise’s colourful mother Carol (Ham) thrown into the mix this time around. If Problem Child was the dark and surly older brother, Risk Everything is its demonic kid sister — the one that gets everyone to fall in love with her despite the terrible and ridiculous things she does.

Incidentally, this description also matches the character of Carol, a scheming manipulator who throws Denise and R.J.’s lives into disarray by getting involved in criminal activity and demanding their help in her predicament. Ham does a tremendous job portraying the wily and charming Carol and sets the bar high for the other actors who share the stage with her.

Luckily, McDonald and Holden-Jones are very much up to the task. Holden-Jones delivers yet another incredible performance, making Denise a woman to both fear and admire in her fervent quest for a “normal” life. McDonald is especially captivating as R.J., particularly considering he replaces the gifted Tyler Parr, who played R.J. in Problem Child and has since left London. Goodwin also delivers commendable comic flavour as the porn director from next door with a heart of gold.

The set design by Judy Bryant is impressively effective, as a wooden wall with two doors separates the modest McManus stage into the main motel room where most of the action takes place, a parking lot and a bathroom.

The play itself is an absolute gem. Walker’s razor-sharp script walks the line between social satire and modern tragedy and features some of the funniest and most touching bits of dialogue in recent dramatic memory. Between the rock solid script, talented cast and effective set, Ausable has another hit on its hands.

Catch Risk Everything this Thursday to Saturday at 9:30 p.m. at The Grand Theatre’s McManus Studio. Tickets are $15 and are available through The Grand Theatre Box Office at 672-8800.



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