Prodigal, presented by The Howland Company in partnership with Crow’s Theatre, recently opened in Toronto and Torontonicity was invited to review the play. The narrative focuses on The Clarks, a prominent Canadian family. One of their sons, Edmund, who is gay, has been ostracized from the family for erratic behaviour and alcohol abuse. When Edmund is cut off from the family trust, he unexpectedly returns home with Levi, a man with whom he has had a romantic encounter. Unbeknownst to Edmund, Levi is also heading to The Clark home for other reasons.
Looking deeper into The Clarks family dynamic, matriarch Marilyn has a caustic relationship with her daughter Violet. Marilyn disengages from the emotional complications of her family’s problems by tending to her prized Boxwood shrubs. Edmund and his younger brother Cameron, fight like cats and dogs. Dad Rowan is having dalliances on the side. “D-Y-S-F-U-N-C-T-I-O-N-A-L” should glare in neon lights on their front door.
Written and directed by Paulo Santalucia, Prodigal examines themes of queerness, the hypocrisy of appearances, and forgiveness. The inspiration of the play is the biblical parable in which a son asks his father for his share of his inheritance, and proceeds to go out into the world and squander it. Realizing the recklessness of his behaviour, the son returns home to beg his father’s forgiveness, which his father eagerly provides.
In the age of social media where often, values are skewed and lifestyles misrepresented, Prodigal pointedly asks us to consider the cost of those affluent, peer-approved lifestyles and the disposability of relationships that do not advance that narrative.
Rick Roberts is commanding as patriarch Rowan Clark. Roberts brilliantly channels the intense frustration of a confused father whose son is hell-bent on following his own craggy path.
Veronica Hortiguela’s Sadie is comically pretentious as a social media influencer who is seeking self awareness through therapy. Hortiguela reveals layers to her character that demonstrate Sadie’s inner sensitivity and thoughtfulness.
Shauna Thompson is a powerhouse in her roles as the Preacher and Simone. In the latter role, Thompson creates compassion for the ambitious career woman who is caught in the age-old dilemma governed by the politics of sex.
Dan Mousseau as Edmund brings a tremendous dynamism, arriving on stage embodying bombastic energy, rambling delivery and bullish body language, convincingly displaying his character’s disruptive nature. Mousseau perfectly captures Edmund’s brokenness when he breaks down during a vulnerable moment with Levi.
Mark Hockin’s minimalist set, which includes a kitchen counter, sink, table and chairs and fridge, is remarkably versatile as it converts easily from the restaurant to the Clarks’ kitchen. Without needing to change sets, the audience’s focus remains squarely on the drama happening on stage.
Logan Raju Cracknell’s simple yet intense spot lighting contributed to the high-octane mood.
Santalucia’s direction maintains the blistering pace of Prodigal until the ending.
Strong performances from the whole cast, an edge-of-your-seat story line plus sharp and at times witty dialogue make Prodigal a “do-not-miss” play at Crow’s Theatre this season.
Prodigal at Crow’s Theatre is being performed until March 12, 2023. Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Run time is 2 hours and 25 minutes including one intermission. Purchase tickets online or at the Box Office. Crow’s Theatre is located at 345 Carlaw Avenue.
You may be interested in reading, “Fifteen Dogs at Crow’s Theatre in Toronto 2023: Review“.