Tom Fool ★★★★★ Orange Tree Theatre | Mar 12 - Apr 16, 2022

In Walden Thoreau wrote “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Franz Xaver Kroetz, Germany's most staged playwright, is the voice of these people. In Tom Fool (Mensch Meier) he presents a working class family who are overwhelmed and stifled by their social limitations. He creates characters with lives and aspirations which are distorted by their circumstances and stunted by their compliance with a system that simply uses them. But despite the darkness of their plight, there is a lot of humour, great humanity and a genuine love for each other that shines through. This is a family that is broken, but it is a family that still cares and it is three people whom we come to care very much about. Kroetz may paint society in black and white but his people are wonderfully subtle shades of grey. Michael Shaeffer gives a bravura performance as Otto, who sadly tries to control what little he can in a life that is so controlled by forces beyond his ken. As his wife, Martha, Anna Francolini brings a wonderful depth to her role. She succeeds in expressing many complex emotions simply through an expression or a gesture. Kroetz is noted for his use of unspoken action to reflect the inarticulate world of his characters, and all three actors do a fine job of conveying their silenced, simmering inner selves. The silent acting out of the clean-up scene is simply riveting. The third cast member, Jonah Rzeskiewicz, does an equally fine job as Ludwig, the son who uneasily carries the family's aspirations and who precipitates the confrontation which makes them question the accommodations they have made. Director, Diyan Zora, draws the best from all of her actors and gets the pacing of this incredibly moving piece just right. The play is a poignant series of snapshots into the lives of people oppressed and damaged, but who survive and who can learn.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by The Other Richard.

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