Gabriel Zamorano scans the audience maniacally as he monologues as Mike Downey. Micheal Rawluk Photo.

Cherry Docs provides a stark look at bigotry and forgiveness

The most recent drama by the Williams Lake Studio Theatre entertains and shocks

If everything is funny, nothing is funny and Cherry Docs, the final play in the Williams Lake Studio Theatre’s 2018-2019 line up, is anything but funny.

Cherry Docs tells a powerful tale of racism, hatred, redemption and hope played between only two actors on stage for the entire performance. Such small plays can be a challenge but the cast and crew of Cherry Docs have more than met it.

Danny Dunkleman, a public defender and devout Jew, is a content, but ambitious lawyer living in Toronto with his wife happily until a new case comes across his desk. He’s asked to defend the troubled young Mike Downey, an open neo-Nazi and member of the skinhead movement, on trial for the drunken beating that led to the death of a South Asian man.

From there Danny must decide how he can defend a man who openly wishes to exterminate him, while Mike must rely on someone he views as evil if he has any chance of a normal life. Sparks fly as the two confront their prejudices and hatred for the other all while preparing for a legal battle…

Thematically, there’s a lot to dig into as you view the Studio Theatre’s depiction of Cherry Docs. Director Merla Monroe wanted to make people think and keep them at the edge of their seats and has done so through her choice of actors, intense cello music and stripped down elements. In essence, she locks you into the interview room with these two intense men and asks you to watch them confront their differences.

Read More: Williams Lake Studio Theatre prepares a thoughtful drama with Cherry Docs

None of this would have worked, however, without the powerhouse performances of Shane Tollefson and Gabriel Zamorano, as Danny and Mike respectively. The two share a tangible connection on stage and have great chemistry together, allowing the few jokes in the play to land in a real, believable way.

Tollefson, the director of November, had admitted in a previous interview that he primarily is a comedic actor by trade and this was his first serious role in years. He took this comedic talent and turned into a warm and friendly persona, acting like he’s simply talking to a friend on a sunny porch in his monologues.

As Danny, he’s an outwardly calm steady presence throughout the majority of the play with his dry delivery often inciting laughter in an otherwise tense drama. When called upon, however, he was also able to invoke emotions of sadness and nostalgia, particularly when remembering his father after a difficult day.

By contrast, Zamorano is a commanding, intense presence from the moment he first opens his mouth on stage. Cherry Docs marks only his second play with the Theatre, the first being the comedy Table Manners earlier this year. There is nothing funny however with his captivating, disturbing and passionate portrayal of a neo-Nazi.

While Tollefson quietly projects, Zamorano spends much of the play yelling, screaming and speaking roughly, as befits a young disillusioned man. The most effective tool he uses, however, is his eyes, which glance sporadically into the audience with a sharp zealot’s gaze. His lines are some of the vilest, yet Zamorano is able to state them as if he truly believes every word.

Beneath this villainous front, however, exists a man who, as the play progresses, is slowly revealed to be conflicted, frustrated and in his own way, marginalized. It’s a testament to Zamorano’s abilities to be able to show these hidden depths while ranting and flailing madly.

Both characters by the end of the play are different men and while the actors did a good job of portraying this, narratively it felt somewhat lacking. An extra scene or two would have been welcome, as once things come to a head the play wraps up shortly after, almost too conveniently.

The message, however, of hope and redemption of even the furthest gone is a solid one, as is the acknowledgement of Canada’s own far-right elements. As Zamorano’s character observes, ignoring this problem will not make it go away and dealing with it will take time, hope and compassion.

Technically, everything was designed to back these two actors up and convey the themes of the scenes. Cathie Hamm expertly manned the lights, providing a warm almost golden glow for Tollefson’s monologues and a stark white prison light for Zamorano’s. No cues were missed and the lights were brought up and down in timely manner.

Alix Leary on sound also hit all her cues, providing some thematic music to ease scene changes like 2Cello’s cover of Thunderstruck.

The set, meanwhile, is simple but effective at combining Mike’s jail cell with Danny’s living room and the interrogation room they both spend the majority of the time sharing. Jamie Regier, Carl Johnson and Andrew Tyrrell did a great job designing and constructing it in a manner that looks to be easy to move for the upcoming festival performances.

Overall, if you’re looking for a drama that pulls no punches and are comfortable with mature language, Cherry Docs may just be the palette cleanser you need after a season of comedies. It sets out to incite conversation about important issues in our society and it succeeds at that.

Tickets are on sale now or at the Open Book for the rest of its run on May 8 and May 15 to 18, with doors opening at 7 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. start. The play will also be performed on May 11 in Kersley as part of the Central Interior Zone Festival for Theatre BC.



patrick.davies@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Shane Tollefson, as Jewish lawyer Danny Dunkleman, makes Gabriel Zamorano as Mike Downey, a neo-Nazi skinhead murderer, read the last words of the man he killed in the Studio Theatre’s production of Cherry Docs. Micheal Rawluk Photo.

Shane Tollefson monologues as Danny Dunkleman in Cherry Docs. Micheal Rawluk Photo.

Shane Tollefson monologues as Danny Dunkleman in Cherry Docs. Micheal Rawluk Photo.

An enraged Shane Tollefson, as Danny Dunkleman, confronts Gabriel Zamorano’s Mike Downey during an intense scene in Cherry Docs. Micheal Rawluk Photo.

Gabriel Zamorano, as Mike Downey crawls on the floor of his prison cell during a monologue. Micheal Rawluk Photo.

Mike Downey, Gabriel Zamorano, a skinhead on trial for murder issues his statement to the court as Danny Dunkleman, Shane Tollefson, his Jewish lawyer watches on. Micheal Rawluk Photo.

Gabriel Zamorano explains the importance of his character Mike Downey’s tattoos. Micheal Rawluk Photo.

Just Posted

Loring, Roberts ready to ride into Canadian High School Rodeo Finals

Two Williams Lake high school rodeo athletes will take their talents to the High School Finals

Caring for Williams Lake’s most vulnerable a must: Dave Dickson

After working 11 years in his position, Dave Dickson said Williams Lake needs to take care of its most vulnerable citizens

SD27 selects 2019’s First Nations Role Models

There were nine students from across the district who threw their hats into the ring

Tolko announces two-week shutdown at Soda Creek sawmill, beginning May 27

The company says employees were informed of the decision earlier Thursday

Fashion Fridays: What to remove from your closet

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Spring rain needed as B.C. sees one of the lowest snowpack levels in 40 years

Snowpack levels in B.C. recorded on May 15 were similar to those in 2015 and 2016

Court to rule on B.C.’s pipeline permit law in crucial case for Trans Mountain

A panel of B.C. Court of Appeal judges has been mulling B.C.’s constitutional reference cas

Theresa May to quit as party leader June 7, sparking race for new PM

The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election

B.C. man who fell off cliff returns there to rescue eagle from vulture attack

Nanaimo’s James Farkas, who broke his hip in a fall, saves eagle on same beach months later

Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 to move within 1 game of NBA Finals

Leonard scores 35 as Toronto takes 3-2 series lead over Milwaukee

Quesnel RCMP still looking for witness to wheelchair turnover in West Quesnel

The man whose wheelchair rolled over on him has died

Municipalities protest after B.C. declares marijuana crops ‘farm use’

UBCM president seeks answers in letter to John Horgan government

CMHC defends mortgage stress test changes amid calls for loosening rules

Uninsured borrowers must now show they could service their mortgage if rates rose two per cent

Most Read