The Guild will open its season this week with the Canadian premiere of The Boys, written by Kris Elgstrand.
Elgstrand and Brad Dryborough, the play’s director and Elgstrand’s “longtime production partner,” agree that it’s a simple play. With a lot going on.
Each of the “three characters, in one room, in real time” has one very clear objective pursued throughout the play.
“It’s kind of an old-fashioned play,” Elgstrand reflects. It’s a play about family relationships, “how people deal with each other.” Add to that simplicity a peppering of misanthropy, and you’re cooking up a dark comedy.
Elgstrand’s scripts, which Dryborough loves to act in, generally provoke a response. At Fringe festivals they have found their work both panned and named Best of Fringe.
At The Boys, “people will laugh a lot, will be shocked by some things. Either they’ll love it or they’ll hate it, but nobody’s just going to go, Well, that was all right…”
Elgstrand and Dryborough have found that most people exposed to the show wind up talking about their own experiences of family. That’s the best response they could hope for.
“You want the audience talking about their own lives after the play is done, not details of the set design,” Elgstrand says.
Dryborough has been involved with The Boys from early days. He was an actor in its first workshop in January 2001.
The play went through years of workshopping with input from Ken Gass, artistic director of the Factory Theatre and Robert Bella, a director from New York.
It had its world premiere in Philadelphia in 2006.
Elgstrand and Dryborough met in Vancouver’s theatre scene in 2000. Dryborough worked in Elgstrand’s AH UM theatre company.
With this company, Elgstrand would just book a space, write an hour’s worth of short dramatic pieces, and put them on in six weeks. He did this for an entire year.
The colleagues moved into short films in 2003. In 2004 Dylan Akio Smith joined them and they produced Man Feel Pain, which won the Bravo!FACT Short Cuts Canada Award for best Canadian short film at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The next year they returned with a feature-length film. They started in February 2005, and by that September it was done.
In addition to showing at the Toronto International Film Festival, The Cabin Movie played on Movie Central, got a DVD release in Canada and sold in Australia, Germany and Brazil.
“At the Vancouver Film Festival alone, about 11,000 or 12,000 people saw that movie,” Elgstrand explained. By his estimation, this audience was larger than all of those that saw his theatre work from 1993 to that point combined.
Because of this, film remains the main focus for both Elgstrand and Dryborough. Still, Dryborough was excited to be invited to work on this show at The Guild.
Katherine McCallum, Artistic Director for the Guild, saw the New York workshop presentation of the script and loved it.
At first she approached Dryborough about coming North as an actor, taking the role of Des, which he’s played for years.
But then, “because of my history with the piece and my history with Kris and his work,” says Dryborough, “we started talking about me coming up to direct it.”
Dryborough describes himself as an actor who’s evolving into a director. He just finished directing his second short film, Clean Dirt, which will premiere in Edmonton Oct. 1.
He’s enjoyed working with Mary Sloan, Jason Westover and George Maratos in rehearsal. He finds the quality of work from everyone involved in the project fresh and keen because “they’re doing it for no other reason than that they love to do it.”
Dryborough likes Whitehorse for similar reasons. “It’s a place people aren’t stuck in. People have come here and made the choice to be here.”
The enthusiasm for The Boys in particular “has been there right from the get-go. And that begins with Katherine.”
When McCallum was applying to become The Guild’s artistic director, she called up Elgstrand, because The Boys was one of the first things she wanted to do.
Dryborough thinks her selection of this play for her first show is “ballsy. It’s a work and a writer that nobody knows.”
Dryborough loves Elgstrand’s use of language. He admits there’s a lot of swearing. But “there’s a style there, there’s a rhythm, there’s a flow.”
Playing at The Guild Hall at 8 p.m., The Boys opens Sept. 30 and closes Oct. 16.