(Celeste Jackson cast as Frankie and Rob Tymec cast as Tom performing in Monkey With A Typewriters production of Smokers at the Shadowbox Theatre in Windsor, Ontario, on June 7, 2019. Photo above by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.)
In the modern world, there are few places for smokers to light up, being chased out of buildings and the like. There are also fewer of them. In fact, it turns out in an alley behind an office building and not far from a school, there are only two smokers. Despite the unique differences in their outlooks on life, and age to say the least, they “strike up” a conversation, one that becomes a lasting daily encounter.
Smokers, now playing at the Shadowbox Theatre, introduces the audience to these two smokers and starts off on a vein reminiscent to Bernard Slade’s 1975 romantic comedy Same Time, Next Year. Slade explores the extramarital relationship of a man and woman who meet yearly in a California inn. Smokers, has nothing to do with extramarital relationships, but a lot to do with the human condition and how it plays out over generations.
A “dramedy” by Endor, it is staged by Rob Tymec’s Monkeys With A Typewriter, and strategically presents a first act filled with comedy and pleasing innuendo. This includes a particularly funny, even though most of its is true, opening monologue in which Tymec laments the end of designated smoking areas and certified smoking breaks at the office. This sets the tone for the play’s protagonist Tom, who maintains a dyed in the wool affliction to cigarettes.
The alley banter between Tom, a 27-year veteran of office politics who spends most of his career reading memos, played with perfect and appropriate sullenness by Tymec himself, and 14-year old Frankie, short for Francine, acted with incredible spontaneity by Celeste Jackson, reflects an instant bond between the two smokers.
Instead of meeting once a year as Slade’s characters do, Endor’s odd couple can be found in the alley at specific times on most work and school days. Neatly, Endor crafts Frankie as grounded and wise, well beyond her years, and Tom as a kind of realist suffering optimistically while living a life well distant from the gravy train of marital and parental bliss.
Throughout the meetings which are nothing beyond talk sessions, Tom has a noticeable cough, although not unusual for a person with a long relationship with paper wrapped tobacco. Endor uses the hacking to expertly telegraph that something is not right.
Act Two ushers in both a change in locale and circumstances. Lifetime smoker Tom has met his match and it is lung cancer. Relentlessly, the disease is about to do him in. Instead of meeting in the alley, he and Frankie meet in Tom’s hospital room and the play turns 180 degrees from comedy to poignant drama. Such a shift is not always easy for actors, but Tymec and Jackson rise to the challenge so well they are able to, with ease, pull on the audience’s heart strings.
It is one of the best intimate plays of the year with a convincing message delivered with passion and compassion that goes well beyond two characters who share nothing more than an addiction to nicotine.
Shadow Box Theatre is owned by Post Productions. Its Creative Director, Fay Lynn, who was in the audience for Friday night’s opening performance, tells Eyes On Windsor how impressed she is with Jackson, describing her as an actor with considerable promise. Along with Tymec, they are both exceptional company during a late spring night.
Smokers opened on Friday at the Shadowbox Theatre on Howard Avenue with additional performances on June 8, 14 and 15. The curtain rises at 8pm. Admission, is $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at the door on performance night.
For more info call: 226-344-3814 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For reasons of health and safety, no actual cigarettes will be smoked in this play.
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.