Fastidious and fussy shoe salesman by day and secretive aspiring film screenwriter by night, Oswald Eichersen’s dreams of success are as grandly inflated as his self-esteem is hopelessly deficient. Just outside Eichersen’s place of work, street person Terence Lomy has sat encamped for two years—an indelible fixture on the sidewalk with a cardboard sign round his neck with the word “hungry” scribbled on it in a hapless hand. One day, on an irrational impulse, having ignored the beggar for years, Eichersen gives Lomy a hundred dollar bill, setting into motion a series of ironic and completely unanticipated events that will change both of their lives forever.
But it’s not only Eichersen and Lomy that are changed by this irrational act of generous empathy. Through a hilarious series of bizarre encounters in the porn theatre that Lomy—a beguiling trickster who dares to claim it is actually he who has something of value to offer Eichersen—has chosen for a series of “rendezvous” with his benefactor, Eichersen finds himself in an unwanted relationship with a reformed hooker, as sexless a companion as his former longtime girlfriend with an irritating fetish for small dogs. As he helplessly witnesses his entire life disintegrate, only to be co-opted and appropriated by everyone around him, Eichersen ends up abandoned and penniless, on the lam for a murder he didn’t commit, absurdly preparing a lecture on Benevolence for the sole patron of the dark and dingy theatre of his nightmares.
Full of excruciatingly comic twists and turns of both fate and manipulative, perhaps even malicious intent, this dark comedy of “trading places” resonates with a cascade of uncomfortable truths about how we see (or don’t see) the people we live with every day.
Benevolence premiered at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto on September 24, 2007.
Cast of 2 women and 3 men.