The Quotable Sayak: “Seeing Risky Phil is a risk worth taking!”

The Quotable Sayak

The Quotable Sayak

The Quotable Sayak is a critic, contributor and coordinator of social media at Sesaya. Naturally arts-inclined, he is a drama major in a secondary arts program and music student at Sesaya.

Daniel Ellis, Tal Shulman and Brian Bisson in Risky Phil, YPT (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

Risky Phil is a comedy by Paula Wing receiving its world premiere at Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre. The play is full of action, comedy, and conflict. It manages to juggle its themes and conflicts with comedy seamlessly. Some of these themes include parental neglect, substance abuse, mental illness, family dynamics, father-son relationships and abandonment.

All of the main characters face challenges. They find themselves in lose-lose situations where they have to decide to take a risk. Phil (played by Daniel Ellis) finds out his dad is not only alive, but in town (despite his Aunt Gigi telling him that he is an orphan). Aunt Gigi herself (Ordena Stephens-Thompson) is caught in a web of lies that she has spun and used to protect Phil, but which end up coming back to haunt her. Tal Shulman gives another great performance as Phil’s friend and hockey buddy Jamie who experiences the effects of his parents’ divorce. He copes (via chocolate) with his hockey-coach dad David’s plans to move to Estonia to follow his dreams of playing professional hockey. David (Brian Bisson) is caught between his dream, his girlfriend, his divorce, and his son. Junior (Jamie Robinson) is getting treatment for his substance abuse, learning to manage his anger, and facing a major surprise.

All of the acting is strong. Shulman and Ellis give sensitive and believable performances as uncertain boys on the edge of discovering qualities and strength they didn’t know they had. Robinson disappears into his role as Junior and Stephens-Thompson strikes a nice balance between protective mother and strict disciplinarian as Aunt Gigi. Bisson plays David as a confident athlete who loses his focus and confidence when he has to parent his son off the ice.

Daniel Ellis and Jamie Robinson in Risky Phil, YPT (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

You become attached to these characters, and you come to appreciate them, despite their flaws – something we can all do a little bit more in real life. Junior makes us realise that just because people are caught up in bad habits, they aren’t necessarily bad people. He also makes us see that change is a HARD thing, but it is possible, and that change comes about slowly, a little at a time. Phil makes us appreciate that it is ok to be confused and feel betrayed, but it is important to forgive and understand where other people are coming from. Jamie makes us realise that it is important to speak up, speak what’s on your mind, and stand up for yourself and others. And David allows us to understand that life is about compromise and sacrifice. He has to juggle a lot of things in his life, which makes us realise that the ideal situation may not always come true, but life is about making time for and working things around the people you care about, and trying to balance your interests around theirs. He also makes us see that it is important to listen to others to understand their needs (especially if you are a parent), and not think solely about yourself.

Stewart Arnott has directed Risky Phil to be a tight and fast-moving 85-minute show that is extremely thought-provoking and entertaining. It moves quickly through all of the themes it juggles while managing to make you laugh along the way. The amount of dialogue throughout this show is huge, and because the show covers a lot of ground, there is no time to be bored and no reason to stop paying attention. From the second the show starts (with peppy music), your eyes are fixed on that stage. And Rachel Forbes’ set is clever! There are only a few pieces, which the actors move around to show interior and exterior locations, like Phil and Aunt Gigi’s apartment, a park, a locker room, and even a street with a bus stop.

Risky Phil is an extremely solid, well put together, interesting, and enjoyable show. I love how this show touched on so many relevant and important themes. However, the topic of substance abuse is touched on so briefly that it feels like the show dances around the subject without addressing it as deeply as it could have. I understand that the story shows how substance abuse can lead to other problems, and focuses on the effects of abuse on addicts and non-addicts. Still, I wish the topic had either been explored further or omitted from the show all together.

But overall, this is a minor quibble. Risky Phil is an engrossing, fast-paced show that is sure to entertain you, leave you with lots to think about, and make you consider the benefit of taking risks. It might even prompt you to look at the people around you in a new and sympathetic way. Bottom line? Seeing Risky Phil is a risk worth taking!

Ordena Stephens-Thompson and Daniel Ellis in Risky Phil, YPT (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

News You Can Use

What: Risky Phil (world premiere) by Paula Wing; featuring Brian Bisson, Daniel Ellis, Jamie Robinson, Tal Shulman, Ordena Stephens-Thompson; Directed by Stewart Arnott, assisted by Luke Reece; Set & Costume Design by Rachel Forbes; Lighting Design by Jareth Li; Sound Design by Lyon Smith

Who: Audiences age 9 years of age (grade 4) and older

When: on stage until April 27, 2018; running time: 85 minutes (no intermission)
*Relaxed Performances: Friday, April 20, 10:15 AM and Sunday, April 22, 2:30 PM

Where: Young People’s Theatre, 165 Front Street East, Toronto, ON

Info and Tickets: and 416.862.2222

Curriculum Connections:

  • Language/English (Listening to Understand, Speaking to Communicate, Reading for Meaning & Critical Literacy)
  • Drama (Reflecting, Responding and Analysing)
  • Social Sciences and Humanities (Family Studies; Healthy Relationships)
  • Health & Physical Education (Personal Safety and Injury Prevention; Substance Use, Addictions, and Related Behaviours; Mental Health & Emotional Well-being, Healthy Relationships)

Explore and Learn: Study Guide

© 2018 Sayak S-G, Sesaya

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