Rum and Vodka
by Conor McPherson
Presented at the Edmonton Fringe Festival
Jon Lachlan Stewart
Directed by Wayne Paquette
Stage Managed by Scott Petters
Nominated for 1 Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Award
Outstanding Fringe Actor (Jon Lachlan Stewart)
THE EDMONTON SUN – Claire Theobald
Rum and Vodka, directed by Wayne Paquette, was described as a one-man ‘tragicomedy.’
This term seems ill fitted, as any comedic moments throughout this dark monologue of the sober self reflections of a hopeless alcoholic, a part expertly delivered by Jon Lachlan Stewart, served only to build the character rather than deliver to the audience any hearty ha-ha.
Conor McPherson’s script captured the true complexities of a low-life and developed a character with great depth whom the audience wanted to both hug and strangle simultaneously.
Stewart played this character beautifully, capturing the essence of a man caught in a ruthless cycle of alcohol addiction coming to terms with the mistakes he has made and his responsibility for ruining his own life.
It wasn’t until the lights came back up that you realized Stewart was an actor and not the lovable-scumbag he had crafted on stage.
Walking through the last three days where the consequences of a 24-year-old’s alcoholism had all fallen in on him at once, we hear from the heart how a man had lost his family, marriage, job, and future at the bottom of a pint glass.
It was the character we have all been unfortunate enough to see, or know. The drunkard who takes one step forward only to stumble 10 steps backward but somehow always comes up with an excuse.
But beneath the surface of the selfish drunk was a tortured soul who had nowhere left to go but down. As much as this character deserved what he was going through, you could not help but feel connected to his story and pity for a man who could not help but self-destruct.
Stewart’s incredible performance partnered with McPherson’s story-telling abilities make Rum and Vodka a Fringe Festival must-see for anyone with an appreciation for the true art of character development.
4 1/2 out of 5 Suns.
VUE WEEKLY – Saliha Chattoo
The last three days have been catastrophic for our protagonist. Four years have gone by since he got married, bought the house and had the kids. Now, at 24, things have almost explosively fallen apart. Jon Lachlan Stewart draws you into his tale of woe and vomit (alcoholism is, after all, the dark beast starring in the story) and doesn’t let you go until the end. It’s almost unsettling how relaxed you feel listening to his seemingly effortless style of storytelling. The use of lights as props on stage was inspired, adding an esthetically expressive layer to the production. Don’t walk in expecting a story that has a definitive solution. The tale’s the thing, here, and it is a very absorbing thing indeed.
4 out of 5 Stars.
THE EDMONTON JOURNAL – Liz Nicholls
In a Fringe world crammed with solo confessionals, where self-expression is supposed to trump all, it is inspiring to see what a master of the monologue can do with the form. I’d call Rum and Vodka a tonic, but that’s an even ungodlier cocktail than the title recipe And our hero already does enough boozing for a battalion in the course of the show.
In this entertaining, very accomplished early piece by the Irish star playwright Conor McPherson (The Weir, Shining City), we meet a young man who feels trapped in his own life. Is this, as he fears, “as good as it’s going to get?” Our hero is 24, a married clerk with a mortgage, two daughters, and a chafing disappointment and regret. In a fit of impulsive rage, he chucks his computer terminal out the window, and it shatters the boss’s windshield. He flees into an epic three-day bender during which he discovers a whole other world in his hometown.
McPherson negotiates, with stunning ease, the complex task of conjuring two worlds, and letting them speak for themselves, in dialogue and exuberant detail. And it’s all through the eyes of an ambivalent, dissatisfied character who wants “a cure for my life.” Our man ricochets through bars and into taxis and beds and conversations, in a tangle of embarrassment, guilt and curiosity. In an existential crisis like this one, how can a guy ever go home? And how can he not?
It’s a complex assignment. And under Wayne Paquette’s direction, Jon Lachlan Stewart is rueful, funny and sad. There are occasional moments when there’s a lag, as if the character, or the production, has lost focus and concentration. But then the story catches its breath, and rolls along. It’s like binges that way.
3 1/2 out of 5 Stars