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Can you succeed with a 90-minte play the first hour of which is taken uplargely by a lecture on Marxist economics?


Anthony MacMahon and Thomas McKechnie have done it with their new play TheJungle that is now playing at the Tarragon Theatre’s Extra Space.  The play is highly entertaining, funny,moving and, yes, informative. It is shamelessly political and thoroughly Canadianand in fact Torontonian.

The Jungle has twoparts. One is the straight, illustrated lecture about economics tied to presentday conditions of workers and their employers. The other part is the story ofVeronyka (Shannon Currie), a young Moldovan immigrant and Jack (Matthew Gin) aCanadian of Chinese origin.

She is in Canada illegally and has a protector who finds her work underthe table and takes a chunk of her pay. Jack is a taxi driver struggling tomake ends meet and advance his education. They fall in love, get married toregularize Veronyka’s status and find it increasingly difficult to survive asworkers.

Veronyka’s parents and brother need money in Moldova and Jack’s parentsare overwhelmed by health problems that make the new couple’s financialproblems almost insurmountable.

There is no shortage of comedy as Chinese and Moldovan attitudes aboutlife and money clash. Veronyka’s family is desperately poor but Jack’s parentsinvite them to visit Canada and in fact pay for their tickets. They come andJack’s parents, quite reasonably, ask that they put up the down payment fortheir children to buy a house. That is out of the question, of course, andthere is the inevitable blow up.

Currie and Gin stop being Veronyka and Jack and step back to the whiteboard at the back of the playing area and using red markers illustrate theMarxist theory of the value of work and bring it up to date. To no one’ssurprise, one hopes, it is no secret that the business owners, from small enterprisesto the huge multinationals, make the money and their focus is on reducing thecost of making it.

They give us some startling statistics including the fact that in 201782% of the wealth generated in the world went to 1% of the population. Try todigest that. Not surprisingly, the rich are getting richer and the poor aregetting nowhere for the simple reason that the rich decide government policy.As someone observed about The United Sates, it has the best Congress that moneycan buy.

MacMahon and McKechnie weave the personal story of Veronyka and Jackwith the political message intelligently and entertainingly. Their personalstory is interesting as they try to get out of their situation as things aregetting worse. Parents get ill, political ambitions are involved and we followalmost current events as an election approaches and Jack is deeply involved incampaigning.

The end is ironic and thought provoking.

Currie does a wonderful job as the attractive émigré who switches from aRussian accent to unaccented English. Gin is excellent as a modern Canadian whohas to follow old Chinese customs. Superb performances, well directed byGuillermo Verdecchia.

The set by Shannon Lee Doyle is functional for the numerous scenes. Thekitchen and living room, the two chars for facing the audience and the whitebackdrop for illustrating their lecture, all work very well.

And you thought economics is boring! Go see The Jungle.   


The Jungle by Anthony MacMahon and Thomas McKechnie continuesuntil November 3, 2019 at the Tarragon Theatre, Extra Space, 30 Bridgman Ave.Toronto, Ontario.

October 19, 2019

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