Fueled by booze, drugs and death, two small town guys tackle big topics

Chris Craddock has smoked his fair share of hash. Growing up in small-town Alberta, the playwright and actor knows all about the drugs and violence…

Chris Craddock has smoked his fair share of hash.

Growing up in small-town Alberta, the playwright and actor knows all about the drugs and violence that typify many rural communities in Canada.

So, he decided to write about it.

The result is 3,2,1, an edgy booze-packed play about two guys hanging out in a garage mourning the death of a friend and indulging in all imaginable substances.

A small town might be a good place to raise a child, but it’s a terrible place to raise a teen, said Craddock from Edmonton.

“I found Spruce Grove to be a place where hashish and fist fights were super the norm.

“There were lots of parties in the woods around bonfires.”

And there were tragedies.

“A few people I knew died in drunk-driving accidents,” said Craddock.

“Another died because of the accidental discharge of a firearm.

“And one died from huffing Pam out of a paper bag.”

Craddock, who co-wrote the piece with Nathan Cuckow, set 3,2,1 in Wetaskiwin, Northern Alberta’s used-car capital.

Famous for the jingle, “Cars cost less in Wetaskiwin,” the town is known for little else.

That is, until 3,2,1’s Clinton and Kyle took the stage a few years ago, on a “bender to end all benders.”

Talking dirty between swigs of beer, tokes and even some lines of cocaine, the guys touch on love, loss and homophobia.

“Teenage society has a pretty stringent view of gender roles and acting appropriately within your gender roles,” said Craddock, discussing the characters’ homophobic tendencies.

“And you see a lot of harm done, in many cases without any individuals even trying — just as a byproduct of our society.”

During his Spruce Grove years, Craddock knew a guy named Jamie who was teased mercilessly for being “gay.”

“He paid a high price for it,” said Craddock.

“It turns out he was gay, like everyone knew he was, and he turned to drugs to deaden his pain, and ended up going in and out of rehab.”

Edgy, funny and hard-hitting, 3,2,1 touches on Craddock’s teenage experiences.

“I’m really hoping that people consider their relationships to their children, and to the substances they use from caffeine to cold medicine to anything else,” he said.

“And that people consider their attitudes towards people who are different than themselves.

“I think, in a lot of cases, people don’t consider what it’s like to be on the receiving end of these attitudes.

“So I hope people think about that.”

The play comes with a few warnings.

Audience members in the first few rows may be splattered with blood.

There’s profanity and swearing.

And, there’s a general sense of aimlessness.

“I don’t know how it works with tickets and how expensive they are,” said Craddock, citing this as a barrier to younger audience members.

“But anyone 18 to 25 is blown away by this piece.

“We’ve been told it helps to change people’s minds about theatre, because a lot of young people see theatre as something that’s pretty stayed.”

3,2,1 is a far cry from Shakespeare.

The play is a departure from work Craddock and Cuckow have written in the past.

It was a challenge, said Craddock.

Known for pieces that jump around, elapse time, heading to the future, past and even to space, the playwrights decided to challenge themselves by writing a play that took place mainly in a single location.

Set during the hockey strike a few years back, 3,2,1 is a “rock-‘n’-roll show for people who aren’t afraid to get into it.”

There are some surprises, said Craddock.

3,2,1 is at the Yukon Arts Centre Tuesday and Wednesday.

Shows start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $20, seniors pay $15 and ArtRUSH teen passes are $5.