A Good Way Out, the first solo production of playwright Cara Norrish, tells of the universal struggle with families. In particular, it is the story of Joey, a motorcycle gang member turned straight motorcycle mechanic who operates a clean front for Larry, head of Joey’s former motorcycle gang.
Joey has three families: one where he is a taken for granted grease monkey who’s owed weeks of payments; one where he is the black sheep brother who has turned away from God; and one where he is a father to two kids and an almost-husband to an ex-stripper turned nurse named Carla.
Three mini-sets on stage show the hardships and obstacles that come with each family: the bike shop set is messy, with beer bottles strewn about and people waltzing right in. There’s no privacy in that life. Everyone’s business is everyone’s business, and that’s part of why there’s no escape from gang life. An old van seat bench stands in for Joey and Carla’s home, which speaks to the appearance of stability but also to the underlying impermanence of their situation.
Finally, a sturdy kitchen table and chairs represents the steady and reliable life Joey’s sister Lynette has found, even though it might not be as happy of a life as she’d like.
The writing and acting are brilliant. For a play that runs 105 minutes, it feels like barely an hour because you get so entranced in what’s happening. The dialogue is genuine, and it feels less like you’re watching a performance and more like you’re in an awkward front row seat in someone’s home as you watch their world implode.
Carl Kennedy, who portrays Joey, delivers his performance so convincingly that it’s not hard to see why he’s been nominated as Best Actor twice at the Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards.
The performance space is set up in a way that allows the audience to look through the sets at each other, but any seat in the place makes the play feel just as real. The entire cast matched each other in brilliant performances to make that happen. I was not the only one who flinched during painful shouting scenes, or jumped at the raw expressions of anger.
The play is of course built on the foundation of a solid script. Norrish delivers thoughtful insight into faith and, through Joey, questions what role God plays in the life of a gang member. Lynette is generally found on the other side of these conversations, a devout believer who continually offers to pray for her brother’s family and his soul. Norrish calls into question what it means to be family, and what “good enough” could ever actually be.
If you have the time, you won’t regret catching A Good Way Out at the Pacific Theatre. It runs until October 15.