It starts with a briefcase. Joey (played by Luke Boughner), a twenty-something phone repairman and occasional petty criminal, found a mysterious briefcase in an alley. Now he’s at home, eager to see what’s inside, but he can’t open it. So he calls his friend Zack (played by Ezra Poku-Christian), an auto mechanic, and asks him to bring his tools over. Zack, burdened with more of a conscience, regards the briefcase as stolen property and doesn’t think they should open it. Better to bring it back where it was found so that its owner can locate it. Seeking validation for his curiosity, Joey invites two more friends over: Selena (played by Rebecca S. Mickle), a cynical young businesswoman, and Kaitlyn (played by Camryn Kingsley), a down-on-her-luck fast-food worker. Everyone but Zack agrees the briefcase should be opened.
But when the briefcase turns out to contain four kilograms of cocaine, some of these young friends have second thoughts – while others are keen to sell it for fast and easy money. Then the briefcase’s owner, a thug named Markus (played by Joey Ouellette), shows up looking for his stolen property and things. . . get a little tense. And violent.
This is the starting point of the brand-new play Stuck by Windsor-native Jonathan Tessier, which was one of two winners in the 2021 Windsor-Essex Playwriting Contest. The script caught the attention of contest judges for many reasons. First, it’s a tightly written thriller, a genre that is uncommon in contemporary theatre. Second, the playwright clearly understood the lives and vulnerabilities of young adults in our era. Third, it moves briskly, unexpectedly funny without sacrificing tension.
Tessier himself is a twenty-something playwright from Windsor who has submitted scripts to the Windsor-Essex Playwriting Contest every year since its creation in 2018. We were impressed even with his first submission by his unique authorial voice, which is very much of his generation yet accessible to audiences of any age. His writing features a nuanced understanding of what his generation faces as they try to enter the world as adults and begin creating lives for themselves. And this is pivotal to the success of Stuck.
The temptations that Joey, Zack, Selena, and Kaitlyn face in Stuck are powerful precisely because this is a generation that is being positioned to struggle and fail. They live in a world of soaring inflation, exorbitant rent, and a gig economy in which there’s no opportunity to build a career and work towards long-term goals. So almost by necessity this is a generation that is compelled to live in the moment and take advantage of whatever opportunities arise – even if those opportunities are criminal.
This is also a story that, like Mamet’s American Buffalo, is about what friendship means. Do friends have to like each other? None of these four characters seem to really like or even want to be around each other; they’re friends now only because they were friends in high school. Does friendship require loyalty? Each of these characters, except Zack, seems ready to throw their friends under the bus on a whim. The one characteristic of friendship that people of other generations will recognize is the feeling that friends should help each other when they’re in a bind. These characters will help each other, they do help each other, but only to a point. Consider how different the social fabric must be if friendship is conceived as a transactional relationship that involves no camaraderie or loyalty. This is the society we’re creating.
Finally Stuck is a story about morality – a theme it tackles from an uncommon angle. The only character with a clear and principled conscience is Zack. So, are we supposed to sympathize with him? Is he meant to represent our point of view as witnesses to this story? If so, the story’s final act may shock us. Can morality have any power in the face of overwhelming greed? You’ll have to watch the play to find out.
Post Productions presents Stuck at The Shadowbox Theatre (103B -1501 Howard Ave. – corner of Howard and Shepherd) September 30; October 1, 7, 8, 13, 14, and 15, 2022 at 8:00 PM (doors open 7:30). Matinee October 9, 2022 at 3:00 PM (doors open 2:30). Tickets are $25 at postproductionswindsor.ca – or cash at the door when available. Written by Jonathan Tessier. Starring Luke Boughner, Ezra Poku-Christian, Rebecca S. Mickle, Camryn Kingsley, and Joey Ouellette. Directed by Michael K. Potter. Produced by Fay Lynn and Michael K. Potter.