Criminal Genius and Featuring Loretta (from Suburban Motel)
Over the course of the season, our assistant directors and student dramaturgs will be compiling dramaturgical resources relating to each production as it develops. Below are some links to websites which relate to the history of the play, the biography of the playwright, and sites that contextualize and, we hope, shed light on the directorial approach to the dramatic material.
We hope you find these resources of interest.
George F. Walker (b. 1947)
Renowned Canadian playwright George F. Walker, born August 23, 1947, has been producing popular works since his break into the theatrical world in 1972.
Formerly a taxi driver, he became playwright in residence of the Factory Theatre in Canada after responding to their call for works with The Prince of Naples. This turned out to be the first of many successful works, including his famous East End Plays. This collection of six works uses a common location for each different play.
Similarly, Walker’s Suburban Motel collection uses a run down motel room as the scenic home of each of the six plays that make up the collection. The Suburban Motel plays are: Problem Child, Adult Entertainment, The End of Civilization, and Risk Everything, and the two the UR International Theatre Program are producing:Criminal Genius and Featuring Loretta.
Along with setting, the plays share many themes that tie them together while maintaining their ability to be presented singly. Sex, crime, blame, and the contrast between “losers” and those in authority show up throughout the collection. The middle two plays in the collection, Featuring Loretta and Criminal Genius, are some of the most humorous of the six.
The former premiered in 1998 in the same theatre to which Walker first submitted his work. It was directed by the playwright himself. The play deals with the story of a pregnant young woman, recently widowed, who leaves her home for the motel in order to escape the control of her family. She soon finds herself involved with several new and complicated people, including a Russian maid with an ex-KGB father and two equally demanding, lustful men who are willing to help her make money, but at a price.
Criminal Genius invites us to follow a father and son in their non-violent criminal activities under the leadership of another underworld figure, “Shirl the Pearl.” When a mission to burn down a restaurant fails, they abduct the cook—a situation which leads to complicated and hilarious results. With elements of farce and acerbic humor, we watch these characters endure a power struggle and constantly change their plans.
Both plays offer a special insight into the lives of some of the down (though not necessarily out) people of the world, presenting us with an hilarious snapshot of their lives, seen through the window of their temporary environment: a generic and run-down motel room..
The first theatre the play was performed at was the Factory Theatre which, coincidentally this season, is producing its own revival of Featuring Loretta. For a history of the Factory Theatre (Canada's first theatre exclusively dedicated to only new Canadian theatrical work), read this, or visit their own history page.
Criminal Genius and Featuring Loretta are both part of a single collection of six plays, entitled Suburban Motel.
For information on the history of the pornography industry, click here, or visit this Wikipedia article. You can also watch this early (and, by modern-day standards, completely inoffensive) short film.
One overarching theme in Criminal Genius is the idea of blame and who is responsible for life's misfortunes. Check out the psychology of blame.