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Friesen, Patrick, et al.

Toronto, Playwrights Union of Canada, 1987. 548pp, paper, $16.95, ISBN 0-88754-451-7.

Grades 10 and up
Reviewed by Alan Thomas

Volume 15 Number 6
1987 November

The Playwrights Union of Canada describes this thick paperback as its most ambitious publication to date. New Works 1, presumably the first of a planned series, presents five plays, one by each of five prairie writers: Patrick Friesen and Nick Mitchell of Winnipeg, Murray McRae of Calgary, and Lyle Victor Albert and Michael D.C. McKinley, both of Edmonton.

While Canadian theatres over the past decade have been actively stimulating and producing new work, the plays are seldom published after production; this project evidently attempts to remedy the problem and to build up a Canadian drama on the shelves as well as on the stage. The regional theatres of the West have been active begetters of new drama and the range of styles in this collection is wide and the subject matter various. Friesen's The Shunning, a poetic drama, presents the tragedy of a Mennonite farmer who thinks in ways other than those of his church; The Prairie Church of Buster Galloway, by Lyle Albert, is not about organized religion at all, but a realistic comedy involving many of the elements of prairie life, the grain elevator as communal centre, the shrinkage of farm communities and its corollary, the individual dream of escape. Written on a more urban note, Murray McRae's Visiting Hours utilizes the drama of heart surgery for a realistic comedy about family ties. Michael McKinlay's Walt and Roy and Nick Mitchell's House are both two-handers of tension built on extended confrontation in a manner initiated in modem drama by Strindberg and followed in our time by Albee and by Pinter. The collection could serve as a useful text for high school drama courses.

Alan Thomas, Scarborough College, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont.
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