Dead serious drama

Local start-up inFurnace Theatre’s debut production Stone Cold Dead Serious tackles addiction, poverty, despair and redemption.

Stone Cold Dead Serious_Joseph Ste Marie

Sean Colby and Brittany Drisdelle in Stone Cold Dead Serious. Photo by Joseph Ste. Marie. 

The title doesn’t lie: American playwright Adam Rapp’s Stone Cold Dead Serious is heavy business. Fledgling local company inFurnace Theatre chose this difficult piece, about a family in shambles, for its first full-blown production — not just for its meaty characters’ hardships but also for its message of redemption.

Stone Cold Dead Serious really connected to me on a personal level because of the pursuit of happiness that all the characters seem to have to struggle through,” says Stuart Fink, inFurnace’s artistic director. “It seemed like all the characters in the play have had the shit kicked out of them by life, so to speak, but for the most part that hasn’t stopped them from still trying to pursue happiness, still trying to aim for a better life. And there’s really something quite noble about that.”

The play follows Wynne Ledbetter, a video game champ who wants to clean up his messy family — a father hooked on painkillers after a workplace accident, a homeless drop-out drug-addicted sister and a mother who works double shifts waitressing but still can’t keep up with mortgage payments. He sets out for New York to compete in a tournament with a million-dollar prize, hoping to use the cash to turn their luck around.

“I personally like plays that hit hard,” Fink explains. “I like plays that tackle issues in a very blunt, head-on way, but the balance is that they always have to be grounded — they can’t be gratuitous for gratuitousness’s sake.”

Fink ploughed through stacks of scripts before settling on this one, which fulfills the company’s mandate of presenting contemporary theatre with appeal for young audiences.

“We put a time limit on our shows, in that the plays that we choose have to be written within the last 15 years,” he says. “It’s about having plays by playwrights that are writing about our current time, to support them, to have artists supporting each other financially and professionally. That was important to me.

“If it’s written today but set in Shakespeare’s time or whatever, I don’t want to do that stuff. I just feel like there’s enough plays happening already in our city or our country that take us back into the past, and I want to focus more on the present. I want to focus more on shows that speak our language and our vernacular and that deal with our issues.” ■

 Stone Cold Dead Serious plays at Espace 4001 (4001 Berri) Oct. 3–12, 8 p.m., matinee Oct. 12, 1 p.m., $12–$15 

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