Buddies has a winner with Tom at the Farm

Published 18, Apr, 2015
Author // Bob Leahy - Publisher

Bob Leahy on Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times latest show “Tom at the Farm”, a highly gripping tale of love, grief, malice, homo-eroticism and lies that runs until May 10

Buddies has a winner with Tom at the Farm

Oh what a tangled web we weave when we stray form the truth. And tangled indeed are the relationships in the exciting psycho-sexual thriller “Tom at the Farm  by the extraordinary Canadian writer Michel Marc Bouchard which opened Thursday at Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. 

It’s taut, it’s tense, it’s terrifying – and it’s terriffic. Gripping from the get-go, the tension never lets up.

In its simple form, it’s a tale of a young man, Tom, who visits the home of his recently dead lover to attend the funeral.  It’s a dreary farmhouse inhabited by a mother who didn’t know her son was gay, or of Tom’s existence, and a brutal but enigmatic surviving son who does. Tom is literally strong-armed into concocting the tale of her son's female lover, Natalie, to spare the mother from the truth. But the relationship between Tom and the sadomasochistic sibling quickly becomes more complicated than the plot of Downton Abbey (with which this show bears absolutely no resemblance) and the homo-erotic content turns up to fever pitch as the two men grapple, then slow dance, then – well you get the picture. Tom decides there is a place for him here. And then the seemingly fictional Natalie arrives ion the scene.

It’s all pretty dark – almost horror story dark. That’s not to say that it isn’t without humour; the scenes involving Natalie are broadly comic, an island in a sea of almost oppressively intense drama.

So that is what Tom at the Farm is about – sort of.  Perhaps only later as you are leaving the theatre, for this is the kind of production you will want to talk about and dissect – will you realize it’s a tightly woven construct almost entirely about lies and lying. For each of the characters is living a complex fiction, heightened in this moment by the grief that has overtaken the household. In the final moments of the play as it lurches headlong in to the surreal, we are left wondering, in fact, just what we can believe and what we can’t.

If this sounds like an intellectual exercise, so be it. But it’s also highly approachable theatre with as many twists and turns as you can expect from an hour and forty-five minutes in a darkened theatre. The spare set convincing conjures up the strange rural environment in which urbanite Tom finds himself. Its downright creepiness seems perfect. Young Jeff Lillico, who plays fish out of water Tom, is also near perfection with a high-geared performance that runs the gamut from grief to fear to lust very convincingly. It’s a bravura performance that almost steals the show. Production values, as is usually the case with Buddies’ shows, are polished.

Whether you would  call this queer theatre  – the  themes are decidedly rooted in gay culture but there is something much larger going on here -  or not, this one should do well, perched as Buddies is on the edge of Toronto’s gay village.  It runs until May 10. Go see it if you can.

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Buddies in Bad Times Theatre presents

TOM AT THE FARM

by MICHEL MARC BOUCHARD

translation by LINDA GABORIAU

directed by EDA HOLMES

starring ROSEMARY DUNSMORE, CHRISTINE HORNE, JEFF IRVING, & JEFF LILLICO

set design CAMELLIA KOO

costume design MICHAEL GIANFRANCESCO

 lighting design REBECCA PICHERACK

 sound design JOHN GZOWSKI

Box Offcie 416 975 8555 or buddiesinbadtimes.com

twitter @YYZbuddies

12 Alexander Street, Toronto..

About the Author

Bob Leahy - Publisher

Bob Leahy - Publisher

Award-winning blogger Bob Leahy first made his social media mark a decade ago on LiveJournal.com where there are still to this day almost 3,000 entries of his available to be read. He was a featured blogger on Ontario’s HIVStigma.com campaign, along with PositiveLite.com founder Brian Finch. He joined PositiveLite.com at its inception in 2009 and became it's Editor a year later.

Born in the UK, Bob’s background is in corporate banking, which he gladly left in 1994, after being diagnosed with HIV the previous year.  He has chaired the board of PARN (Peterborough AIDS Resource Network) and has been an executive board member of both the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN) and the Canadian AIDS Society (CAS).  He was inducted in to the Ontario AIDS Network’s Honour Roll in 2005.  Bob is currently a member of Ontario’s GMSH (Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance). He also writes for TheBody.com.

In 2012, Bob was honoured with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal for his work and commitment to HIV/AIDS in Canada.

Bob continues to write for this site while in the Positivelite.Com editor’s seat, with a particular interest  in HIV prevention, theatre and the arts in general. He is accredited media for a number of Toronto theatres. He lives in Warkworth, Ontario with his partner of thirty-two years and three dogs.