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Rodger, Douglas
Toronto, Playwrights Canada Press, 1992. 133pp, paper, $7.00, ISBN 0-88754-483-5. CIP

Grades 12 and up/Ages 17 and up

Reviewed by Raymond Stoyko

Volume 21 Number 2
1993 March

Rodger has based this two-act play on the Torso murder case, which occurred in Hamilton in the 1940s. The author states in the preamble that "everything stated in this play by a 'real' character is based on verifiable fact, whether from trial transcripts, police reports or newspaper accounts." He also includes graphic details on the visual representation of the mutilated torso. Historical and biographical notes are included at the end of the script.

The script is intended for a cast of eight. Although it is a two-act play, the number of scene changes within an act makes this read more like a television rather than a stage script. The notes state that the script is slated for television under the direction of David Cronenberg.

All the information concerning the murder of John Dick and the investigation and trial of his wife, Evelyn, is presented by two reporters (Edwards and Muirson), who take on other character roles when they step into the main action. This, at times, appears to create a disjointed performance.

Act I presents the investigation and trial of Evelyn Dick. The audience is also provided with background information concerning the courtship/marriage of John and Evelyn. Act II presents greater background information on the case by means of flashbacks, including the influence and involvement of Evelyn's parents. Evelyn is found not guilty of the murder of John, but then is arrested for the murder of her infant son, Peter.

Rodger creates a bizarre situation here, with the infant corpse encased in concrete and kept in a suitcase in the attic. Throughout this trial sequence the audience is presented with Evelyn's promiscuity and its results. The trial ends with Evelyn being given a life sentence, and the two reporters going to spend time together at a local hotel.

The Financial Post describes this play as "Irresistibly lurid ... a much-needed injection of trashy vitality." The script contributes to the wealth of contemporary Canadian scripts, and may be of interest to people who enjoy scripts. It is recommended as an auxiliary resource for secondary/university students of drama/English.

Raymond Stoyko is a senior high drama/ English teacher with Winnipeg School Division (no. 1) in Winnipeg, Manitoba
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