Review by Lisa Levesque
Comedy, Solo, Storytelling/ PG /60m
Howard Petrick starts off his one-man show singing a Wobblies version of an old hymn, talking about his young life as a working man, and wearing denim on denim. But, what should seem preachy never does. Instead, Never Own Anything You Have to Paint or Feed is the work of an enthralling storyteller, one that uses humour to talk how human decency can make help sense of the working man’s life.
While the narrative isn’t always straightforward, it’s easy to just fall into the continuous ebb of the story. Never Own Anything You Have to Paint or Feed brings together two groups of railroad riding men: the 1960’s draft dodgers, broke 19 year olds who are looking for work and a Bob Dylan record or two, and the old timers, men who might have ridden in the dirty thirties and are still in ill-repute. While it takes awhile to get going, this story meanders though interesting side tales and occasionally wanders into the absurd. The refrain, though, is always those old Wobblies hymns, and they keep asking the audience what it means to labour for a living.
Never Own Anything You Have to Paint or Feed describes arcane worlds as more than what they seem. The night-shift at the train yard, the secret life of a bar-fly, and the difference between hobos, tramps, and bums, for starters. These provide for easy and interesting humour that hides a darker, more socially conscious side. Tricking the railroad authorities by getting a roommate to take your physical is a funny idea; until you realize that the roommate is colourblind and that you’re getting fired for having a disability yet again. Iterant workers, deadbeats, riding the rails, and the circus; from the way the story is told it all seems heartwarming, even if we know this isn’t really the case.
If you’re looking an individual perspective on larger social issues and poverty that isn’t impersonal, Never Own Anything You Have to Paint or Feed is a story worth hearing.
Never Own Anything You Have to Paint or Feed by Howard Petrick is playing at Venue 4 – Studio Lénard-Beaulne on Sunday, June 22 at 9:30, Monday June 23 at 7:30, Thursday June 26 at 9:00, Saturday June 28 at 6:00, and Sunday June 29 at 1:00.