With a riveting plot reminiscent of a TV drama, clever dialogue and an all-star cast, RCA Theatre Company’s production of “Hail” is likely to sell out fast.
Four friends — played by Aiden Flynn, Brad Hodder, Brian Marler and Robert Joy — reunite in a late-night meeting, brought together by something from their past that threatens to come back to haunt them.
Twenty years ago, five friends committed a crime together, and managed to keep it to themselves. Now, one of them has been picked up by the police and the others meet to discuss their chances of escaping the same fate.
What the crime was, none of the actors are saying.
“They’ve been hoping they had gotten away with it, but now it seems like they might be getting their comeuppance for the act,” Joy explained.
“What’s revealed when they get together is why they got involved to begin with. What’s happened to them since. What they have in common and what they don’t have in common, and what their various addictions are; to risk or to safety or to whatever it is. When people are under pressure, they expose their nerves.”
In the years since the incident, the men’s lives have gone in different ways: Len (Flynn) is “the loudest, cruelest” dog in the pit; Gerry (Marler) is the academic of the group; Paul (Hodder) is a self-appointed leader with a lot to lose; and Danny (Joy) is “someone who’s gone to a very bad place,” as another of the characters in the place says.
“He has some substance abuse problems and various health issues that he’s dealing with, and he’s living on the fringes of isolation in some ways,” Joy explained.
“To be pulled into this room with the other three guys represents a once-in-a-lifetime kind of chance. It feels, for Danny, that this is a chance to name everything that’s right and wrong with his life and to name the truth; to put his finger on what’s going on.
“I think he feels a particular, almost existential urgency. He’s not going to be around much longer is what I think he feels, and he’s got to figure out if he fits there, is there a comeuppance for him, did he get away with anything in his life and has his life been any better or worse than any of these guys’ lives. It’s a chance to examine everything.”
While Danny might seem like a complicated character, Joy — who is perhaps best known for playing Madonna’s boyfriend in the 1985 movie “Desperately Seeking Susan” as well as his current role as medical examiner Sid Hammerback on the “CSI:NY” television series — said it actually the most liberated and liberating character he’s ever played.
“He’s not threatened by being in trouble,” Joy explained.
“His whole life has been trouble, so in a funny way, he’s fearless. It’s not that he doesn’t feel the fear, but he’s used to it; that’s the water he swims in. There’s not taboo that I can’t bring up, there’s not emotion that I’m not allowed to feel, there’s no exploring I’m not allowed to do. It opens up possibilities for comedy, drama, slapstick, the whole thing.”
Having lived in New York and Los Angeles for the past 30 or so years, this is the first time Joy has been in a fully-produced stage play since 1978. When the invitation to star in the production came while he happened to be on hiatus from “CSI:NY,” he grabbed it, he said.
Being on stage again, it’s kind of like a revelation to me how much fun it is,” explained Joy, who recently learned the TV show has been picked up by CBS for another season.
“In television and film, they’ll call you in to shoot, then you go back to your dressing room. It’s very much that you’re putting your widget on the machine that will eventually roll off the assembly line completed. Here, every day that we’re in rehearsal, we are sculpting something that we’re actually going to make each night in front of the audience from scratch, and it’s a totally other level of excitement. It’s amazing that I’ve been away from it for this long, because it’s totally thrilling to be creating something so immediate for the audience.”
“Hail” takes place in a space belonging to Paul; a space he acquired in order to start a small business which failed, and which he now uses as a sort of man-cave. The set is industrial and cold, with a drain on the floor at stage left and a metal cage at stage right. The room’s sparse furniture is covered by drab gray cloths; a small, strange Tiffany-type chandelier hung over what seems to be a table.
“It’s like the set of ‘Saw 4,’” Marler said with a chuckle.
“Hail” is the newest play by local writer Edward Riche, author of the novel “Rare Birds” and its film adaptation, the novel “Nine Planets,” and a number of episodes of the TV program, “Made in Canada.” Riche’s newest novel, “Easy to Like,” is set to be published by House of Anansi this fall.
The four actors say Riche’s writing for the stage is very performer-friendly.
“It’s been good work in the literal sense, but there’s always something to get charged up about, every day,” explained Hodder.
“It never settles — you’ve got to stay on top of it. And you get to have good scenes and say good lines with really good people.”
The play is directed by Charlie Tomlinson, whose recent directing credits include the award-winning “The Drowning Girls,” which he co-wrote, “Pains of Youth,” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”
“Hail” runs at the LSPU Hall May 26-June 5. Tickets are a $30 for adults and $25 for students, seniors and artists, with pay-what-you-can matinees on May 28 and June 4. Tickets are available online at www.rca.nf.ca or by calling 753-4531.