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REVIEW: The Drawer Boy

Ottawa Little Theatre is closing out its 100th season - celebrating ten plays from ten decades - with Michael Healey’s quickly becoming a Canadian classic, The Drawer Boy. It’s about an actor looking to learn about life on the farm.

Should you see it?

The Drawer Boy, presented by Ottawa Little Theatre

Brian Cano, Mark Kielty

Set in 1972, The Drawer Boy sees aging farmers Morgan and Angus visited by an actor, Miles, who wants to get some work experience on a farm in order to  do some playwriting about the farm life. Immediately we see that something’s a little off with Angus and we soon learn that an accident during an air raid in WWII London thirty years prior, left Angus brain damaged and with little to no use of his short term memory.

There’s some fun laughs in this comedy/drama, mostly at the expense of wet-behind-the-ears Miles as he “learns” about life and work on the farm (like why cows are so stressed out all the time and being saddled with the tough job of washing gravel rock by rock), balanced by some deeper intrigue about what really happened to Angus when it seems Morgan may have something to hide.

The Drawer Boy, presented by Ottawa Little Theatre

Mike McSheffrey

The play is a touching look at heartbreak and regret and at truth and at lies in the stories we tell ourselves. Or at least it should be. Brian Cano and Mike McSheffrey do fine for their parts. Brian Cano does well by the fairly simple-minded Angus, particularly in the later part of the play when his head is full of conflicting ideas and he just needs answers. And Mike McSheffrey does a wonderful turn as Miles, even doing a pretty spot on impersonation of Morgan (and of Daisy the Cow). But Mark Kielty’s Morgan just didn’t seem up to the important task of bringing home the emotional core of this show. He was almost completely one note and didn’t have much to any emotional variance. Where we should have been enjoying Morgan’s amusement at messing with the clueless actor right along with him, it was instead hard to tell whether Morgan just didn’t care to bother with the actor or whether he was just plain being mean-spirited. Where we should have felt his personal violation and outrage at the potential exposure of one of his deepest secrets, all I heard was shouting — it was all on the surface.

The Drawer Boy, presented by Ottawa Little Theatre

OLT’s wonderful indoor/outdoor set for The Drawer Boy

So when we get to the climax of the play and I should be deeply connected to Morgan’s being forced to bring up -painful- secrets long kept hidden, I was sadly indifferent to the whole thing. I did enjoy Ottawa Little Theatre’s The Drawer Boy but felt that I was only about 35% invested in it.

But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. How did you feel about The Drawer Boy? Were you connected and invested, or did it just leave you reclining in your seats enjoying the AC? What was your favourite part of the play?

For full details on The Drawer Boy, the last show of Ottawa Little Theatre’s landmark 100th season, check out our full preview, including photo and video. 

About Allan Mackey

Allan Mackey is editor-in-chief of Production Ottawa, which, really, is too fancy a title. He also acts as show producer for Should You See It, making sure you get your answer in just about two minutes every time. He writes stuff and occasionally turns that stuff into movies. Keep being awesome!


  1. thanks for the review. Funny that critics have varied opinions. As Iris’ review said this of Mark’s performance of Morgan opening night : “Mark Kielty is outstanding as Morgan, completely believable as farmer, caregiver and reluctant and mischievous host.” Of course i was not there Wednesday night so don’t know the performance you saw with missing emotional core as we did work a lot on that. How was the production other than the acting though? There were a lot of other elements to the show that we worked carefully on. I only get acting notes above. Again thanks for the preview and review. We appreciate you guys coming out and supporting locale theatre.