THEATER REVIEW: Paul Hopper gives a riveting performance in "The Drawer Boy"

“Each be other’s comfort kind/Deep, deeper than divined.” -- Gerard Manley Hopkins

The above lines were written about a wedding, but they describe the characters in Michael Healey’s “The Drawer Boy” perfectly.

Morgan (Frank Corrado) and Angus (Paul Hopper) have been working their ramshackle dairy farm in rural Ontario for 30 years.

Friends since childhood, Angus abandoned dreams of becoming an architect when Morgan talked him into going off to World War II together.
There the Canadian buddies met two girls and survived the London blitz (but not without grave injury to Angus, whose head was split open in the bombing).

Doctors patched Angus together by inserting a metal plate into his head, and they all returned home. But the blow destroyed his memory, and now their routine includes Morgan’s nightly retelling of their life story.

One day a knock on the door brings a fresh-faced young actor named Miles (Kevin Koppman-Gue), member of an acting troupe writing a play about farmers, who asks to stay a while to observe farmers in action.

Angus is happy for the company, though Miles will have to remind him who he is and why he’s there every time they meet. Morgan is less thrilled with this city slicker, but takes sly pleasure in telling him outrageous lies about farming (such as insisting that he get up at 3:30 one morning so they can “rotate the crops”) and giving him useless tasks like washing gravel.

Inspired by a landmark 1972 theater project called “The Farm Show,” in which actors interviewed farmers in rural Clinton, Ontario and created a collective performance piece using the words of those interviewed, “The Drawer Boy” premiered in 1999. This is its local debut -- at North Coast Repertory Theatre through March 20.

It’s a deceptively simple piece about friendship, memory and storytelling, woven together with humor and humanity and presented by a sterling cast, wonderfully directed by David Ellenstein.

Corrado is effective as the wryly humorous rock of the pair, almost single-handedly running the farm while patiently dealing with Angus’ memory loss.

Koppman-Gue is impressive as the open-hearted Miles, who eventually learns a bit about gullibility from Morgan, and teaches his hosts a bit about the power of storytelling.

But the play belongs to Hopper’s Angus, a difficult role requiring a halting gait and perhaps more acting with face and body than with words. Hooper’s absolutely convincing portrayal is riveting.

The details

“The Drawer Boy” plays through March 20 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach.

Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 and 7 p.m.; select Wednesdays at 7 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 pm.

For tickets, call (858) 481-1055 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.