A night with The Mighty Carlins is like having really drunken sods you don’t know—and don’t want to—sit down at your bar table.
You start off trying to be polite.
But you know you’re in for it.
The lights come up at the Old Fire Hall on a table full of empties.
That’s the first sign of trouble.
There’s an old geezer, in clothes he probably sleeps in, humming along to the slightly loud, and a bit out-of-place, Simon and Garfunkel tune Cecilia.
The opening music makes a bit more sense later, when we learn Leo Carlin’s deceased wife loved the harmonic duo.
It’s a depressing start—the old guy alone drinking.
But it gets worse when his beer-fattened, balding son with dirty jeans and a plumber’s crack arrives.
Leo calls him “many chins.”
It’s a low-middle-class stereotype.
Throw in the frail younger son, a security guard with a suicidal, controlling, pothead girlfriend and you have The Mighty Carlins.
It’s not uplifting stuff.
But it’s entertaining—if you enjoy watching deadbeats hash out outlandish moneymaking schemes at one another’s expense.
As Leo Carlin, John Wright is enthralling.
Even watching him wipe his nose is a joy.
From the ball of phlegm he tosses around in his throat to the hacking cough that left me wondering if he was actually battling some lingering flu, Wright gives Leo a perfect balance of grit, senility and sadness.
It was a little harder to sympathize with his oldest son Mike Carlin, Joshua Beaudry.
A schemer, willing to commit his old man for his dead wife’s insurance money, Mike isn’t a super-likable guy.
But that’s the point.
And Beaudry gives Mike the repulsive sleaze he needs to come up with the preposterous scams the script has in store for him.
Equally insidious is Brian Fidler’s whiney, snivelling Davey Carlin, who feigns shock at his familial counterparts, playing the gullible card just a little too often.
The cast is strong, and the script holds some gems, like, “Her teeth were so bad she could eat corn on the cob through a picket fence.”
But it feels like there’s something lacking.
Maybe the Carlin’s distorted motivation rubs off on the audience and is responsible for the blah feeling that’s left at the end of the play.
Or maybe Colin Doyle’s script needs a little something more, besides the main plot pusher—a bowl full of questions, written by the Carlins, to remember the mom and wife they lost to an “accidental” fall down the stairs.
The return of a theme to keep things rolling is nothing new.
And there’s nothing wrong with it.
But when it’s too obvious, the structure of the script peeks through, and it shouldn’t.
The game-show questions in the Oscar-sweeper Slumdog Millionaire had the same effect.
It took a while to warm up to the Carlins, who started off stiff.
But as the beer and tequila flowed, the actors fell into convincing, almost endearing characters.
Subtleties, like Leo’s eye-twitch when he’s angry, mirrored by his upset son Davey, gave the piece some depth.
Unfortunately, The Mighty Carlins sees a lot of anger and a bit too much yelling.
Director Michael Clark could have dug for a bit more nuance.
It would have helped give the piece the emotional punch it needed.
Near the end, when tears splash onto the table in a quiet moment between Wright and Beaudry, The Mighty Carlins does find its humanity.
And it’s mesmerizing.
The show runs Wednesday through Saturday at the Old Fire Hall in Whitehorse.
Tickets are $22 and performances start at 8 p.m.
Contact Genesee Keevil at