Brandon Pitts’ new play Killcreek, recently published by IOWI and directed by Katherine E. Bignell, opened its Toronto Fringe run at the Randolph Theatre last night.
In Killcreek, a fictitious 1950s Montana mining town, miners have been laid off and are scrambling to earn what living they can with alternate employment. Brother and sister Daryl and Maddy, orphaned when their father was killed in a mining accident, live in the family home along with Maddy’s husband (and Daryl’s high school friend) Rick. They’re managing, but just barely, and Daryl’s alcoholism is both a source of emotional and financial tension in the household. Daryl is trying – going to AA meetings – but struggles with frustration and resentment, having been forced into the role of father and mother to his younger sister at a young age. A glimmer of hope appears as a new vein of gold is discovered in the mine, even as the family learns that their financial troubles are more serious than they thought. Will love and family be enough?
Bignell has a fine cast for Killcreek. As the siblings, Dan Cristofori’s Daryl is tortured and conflicted, longing to leave Killcreek, but tethered to the town by family loyalty and an inability to change his life, wearing his resentment as a giant chip on his shoulder; and Angela C. Brown’s Maddy is the lovely, gentle, positive force of the house, forced into the role of peacemaker in Daryl and Rick’s strained relationship. Romaine Waite is both solid and passionate as Rick, a good, hard-working man and loving husband, willing to return to his job in the mine despite the risks. Chris Leveille brings a nice, supportive warmth to Daryl’s AA sponsor Mike, while Cheryl Bain elicits under-the-breath mutterings of both the “c” and “b” words from the audience as the pinched, money-grubbing mine owner (and Maddy’s employer) Mrs. Cranston. Dan Smallman does a nice job juggling multiple roles as the union boss, AA chair and bartender (the latter giving off a creepy vibe akin to the bartender in The Shining), and kudos to double-duty actors/ASMs Jessica McQueen and Violet Backwell for their work as AA members and miners, executing the scene changes with 50s music and Amos and Andy radio sketches playing in the background – a nice touch that was both evocative of the period and practical to fill time for scene/costume changes.
Pitts has written a period piece that both moves and resonates today, where the American dream has turned nightmare, and the greed of the wealthy further exacerbates the economic/class divide with the working class, who are barely scraping by, in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure and, in this case, willing to risk their lives for a paycheque. The stark realism of a family struggling in the face of ruin, with a character desperately lost in a battle with his own demons and alcohol, has a ring of Eugene O’Neill to it.
Killcreek continues its Fringe run at the Randolph Theatre until Sunday, July 14. Click here for exact dates and times.
Cover art for the published edition of Killcreek by artist Jennifer Hosein.