LANESBORO, Minn. — The Commonweal Theatre Company presents Michael Healey’s “The Drawer Boy,” Sept. 15 through Nov. 11, and if you’ve never heard of it, join the audience.
“A lot of people have never heard of it because it’s Canadian,” said director Leah Cooper.
It tells the story of a young actor who arrives at the doorstep of two bachelor farmers to research his next role — but what he learns is a secret that could destroy a lifelong friendship.
Cooper, a freelance stage director and executive director of the Minnesota Theater Alliance, said the play is beautiful and “takes us on a journey of memory and heartache and love so gently and so humorously.”
The two bachelor farmers in the story, Morgan and Angus, are played by Commonweal resident artists David Hennessey and Hal Cropp. The role of Miles, the young actor, is played by by Ethan Bjelland, a member of Commonweal’s Apprentice Company. Carolyn Fast is stage manager and leads the production team, consisting of designers Kit Mayer (sets), Janis Martin (costumes), Jason Underferth (lights), Daniel Stock (sound) and Megan Pence (props).
The show originally toured Ontario and included the playwright as a member of the troupe. Though the character of Miles is based on a real person, the play departs into fiction from there.
“Miles is an actor in this company and he comes to the farm where there are these World War II vets. Morgan and Angus were in the war together. Angus was hit during the bombing in London and suffered brain damage and has memory loss. Morgan cares for him, repeatedly telling him the story of how it happened,” Cooper said.
But when Angus sees their story on the stage, he sees it is not the same story Angus has been telling him.
“It’s a story about love and loyalty and the lies we tell to live with them,” Cooper said. “Art can jar things loose in our hearts,” she said, which makes this production so powerful.
For people who live in farm country, there’s plenty of fish-out-of-water humor, she said.
“It’s a sweet story, but it’s not told sentimentally at all. They don’t wallow in their emotions. It’s mostly funny, but by the end it’s very moving.”
Though Cooper is excited to direct this play, she says she would have directed just about anything at Commonweal because of it’s great reputation, not just in Minnesota but on a national level.
“When Hal asked me if I was interested in directing for Commonweal, I said yes before I knew what the script was.” When he said spend a month in Lanesboro in August, she said, that’s all she needed to hear.
Luckily, she said, the play is well made. “It just works. It carries you along, it carries the actors along, everything falls together, and it’s well made.”