Drew Rowsome's Review of My Dinner with Casey Donovan

My Dinner with Casey Donovan is a meal to be savoured

An excerpt from Boys in the Sand – projected on the wall that previously was a stained glass window – shows us exactly why porn stars fascinate. And that the clip ends just as Casey Donovan is about to be worshipped is the perfect tease and metaphor. Sky Gilbert is curious about how porn stars become gods and when a Lutheran family is visited by a porn god, that curiosity, those questions, are comedically explored.

The first two-thirds of My Dinner with Casey Donovan is a farcical romp with a big heart. It is far more delicious and meaty than the boeuf bourguignon that Rita Limehouse has prepared for the dinner. Michael De Rose is the twitchy mess of a closeted son and he executes pratfalls, petulance, desire and orgasm with slapstick exuberance. He also handles a large amount of exposition with an enveloping skill that is as touching as it is hilarious. It is rare to meet a character who earns identification so completely, he deserves the porn star, the man, of his dreams.

The dinner itself transforms a clever sitcom premise into a drawing-room comedy of manners and repression. Elley-Ray‘s buttoned-down Rita Limehouse is the mother who cares too much and her work is breathtakingly subtle. When she manages to turn the word “Yugoslavia” into a three-syllable punchline that brings down the house, it is obvious we are in the capable hands of a comic genius feasting on solid comic writing. But beneath the bouffant and high collar capped with a cross, lies a genuine broken heart that is reluctantly revealed. The performance is a marvel.

Ralph Small makes the most of the father who is for the most part a plot device. His relationship with his neurotic son and suppressed spitfire of a wife are grounded by his work.

Physically Nathaniel Bacon has no problem evoking a sexual fantasy come to life, and his use of a flat, calm, rich baritone is as butch and comically erotic as every ’70s porn archetype. His deadpan subversion of expectations during dinner earns him laughs opposite Elley-Ray, which is a testament to spot-on timing in the face of a hurricane of hilarity. When the last third arrives, and Bacon is called on to become dramatic, he rises to the occasion and is only let down by the writing which turns into a lecture that is fascinating, but a mood swing that requires a lot from the audience.

An invitation to dine with Casey Donovan, a stellar cast and a theatrical creator at the height of his powers, is one that should not be turned down. This is an intimate space and the limited seating is bound to be filled. There isn’t dessert – my only complaint is that My Dinner with Casey Donovan is not longer – but the appetizer and main course are exquisite and cooked to perfection.

Photos by Seana Kennedy

My Dinner with Casey Donovan continues until Sun, March 22 at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave. passe-muraille.ca