In George F. Walker’s play Problem Child, an “unfit” mother grows desperate to have her child returned to her care. While her lover R.J. (Ash Catherwood) languished in jail, Denise (played by Katerine Taxia) picked up a few bad habits, and the authorities have removed her child and placed it in a foster home.
Now that R.J.’s out of prison, landed steady work, and goes to church, he’s rejoined Denise, and there’s the faint glimmer that the frantic mother will get her little girl back. The main obstacle in this reunion is Helen, the couple’s judicious case worker, played with clever authority by Janet Bailey. It’s Helen’s job to assess if Denise can become a responsible parent, instead of a threat to her own kid.
Denise and R.J. live in depressing public housing, where R.J. sits in front of the TV, outraged by the humiliation meted out to reality-show guests. He commiserates with Phillie, the building’s drunken, weather-beaten maintenance man (Kevin Charles Hopper) who represents a more bitter view: there is no justice for the weak.
It’s hard to believe this is the stuff of comedy, but Problem Child is quite hilarious. This production generates laughs because no one is trying to be funny. It’s just that no one in this comedy is very good at common sense except, perhaps, social worker Helen. The result is pure chaos, and when Denise makes a particularly unwise error in judgement, all attempts at problem solving jump wildly out of control.
Thanks to director Joanne Latimer, this show is a team effort, and each actor—Ash Catherwood, Katerina Taxia, Kevin Charles Hopper, and Janet Bailey—takes their role so seriously, the audience can sit back and roar.
I know it’s appallingly cold, but PLEASE ignore the winter and make an all out effort to see Problem Child before it closes. Ash Catherwood as the TV reality show junkie and Janet Bailey as the frustrated social worker are particular stand outs.
HURRY. Only a few more performances at the Red Sandcastle Theatre.
922 Queen Street East at Logan Avenue.
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