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Jam Sandwich

Million Dollar Quartet

Review by Sean McQuaid 

Greg Gale, Edward Murphy, Alicia Toner, Evan Stewart, and Matthew Lawrence in a scene from Million Dollar Quartet (photo: Berni Wood, The Charlottetown Festival).  Her musical's lyrics urge Anne of Green Gables to "never change," and the show's Charlottetown Festival home often seems somewhat simpatico with that advice. Anne's antics return every year, and most Festival seasons also feature at least one jukebox musical. That includes this year's main stage companion to Anne, Million Dollar Quartet

Written by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott, MDQ is loosely based on a real-life event: a December 4, 1956 Carl Perkins recording session during which Sun Records musicians Perkins (played here by Ed Murphy), Jerry Lee Lewis (Jefferson McDonald) and Johnny Cash (Greg Gale) played an informal, impromptu jam session with visiting Sun alumnus Elvis Presley (Matthew Lawrence). 

Sun Records founder Sam Phillips (Stephen Guy-McGrath) hosted this "million dollar quartet," as newspaper reporter Bob Johnson dubbed them after Phillips called him in to document the occasion. Sun's recordings of the session were eventually released on several albums in later decades. The Mutrux/Escott musical adaptation debuted in 2006, hitting Broadway in 2010 and coming to Charlottetown this summer. 

Inevitably, there's a degree of speculation, imagination and fabrication at play in the musical's fictionalized version of the event, though often rooted in knowledge of the real-life personalities — using the famously volatile Lewis as a conflict-generator among the other characters makes sense, for instance, in terms of creating much of the show's drama. 

The 1956 session's participants included drummer W. S. "Fluke" Holland as well as Perkins' brothers Jay on guitar and Clayton on upright bass, but the musical's sidemen consist of Fluke (Trevor Grant) and a single composite Perkins brother, a bass-playing Jay (Evan Stewart). Similarly, Presley's dancer girlfriend Marilyn Evans attended the 1956 session strictly as a spectator, but she is replaced in the musical by a fictional singer girlfriend, Dyanne (Alicia Toner), who jams with the boys and even gets some numbers of her own. 

The Mutrux/Escott story also takes some chronological liberties: the musical gins up its thin plot by having Cash and Carl Perkins preparing to quit Sun Records like Presley before them, though their respective departures from Sun happened much later than this in real life. Along with a parallel subplot about Phillips considering selling Sun, this adds a bit of extra intrigue beyond the musicians' personality clashes. 

Of course, all the drama is secondary to the music, and there's tons of it. Only several of the musical's 20-plus songs were actually played in the 1956 session, but it's hard to care when the show boasts so many classic tunes performed so skillfully by director Tracey Flye's solid cast, including highlights such as Toner's "Fever," McDonald's "Great Balls of Fire" and Gale's "Ghost Riders."

Beyond the music, Murphy really captures the chip on Carl's shoulder, Gale has a stoic energy reminiscent of the real Cash, Guy-McGrath crafts one of the more colourfully likeable bosses since Stephen Root's Jimmy James, and a superb McDonald steals scene after scene as loose cannon Lewis — all mugging, mischief and manic energy throughout, like some loquacious latter-day Harpo Marx.  

Clocking in well under two hours, it's a fast-moving, hard-rocking, good-natured blur of a musical — more concert than drama, but packing enough of the latter to give the material emotional resonance, especially in its nods to the oft-troubled futures facing 1956's young icons-in-the-making. Built as it is around a jam session, it may not be the meatiest play in town — but it is a mighty tasty jam sandwich.

—Select dates at Confederation Centre of the Arts. Tickets/info: confederationcentre.com.

Six Appeal

It’s All in the Timing 

Review by Sean McQuaid 

Your scattershot scribe enjoys short-form compilations. Whether it’s old Disney “package films” like The Three Caballeros and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad or vintage anthology comic books like Adventure Comics and 100-Page Super Spectacular, I’ve always liked variety in my entertainment. 

My hankering for patchwork productions extends to theatre, and Charlottetown has hosted many a fine assemblage of one-act plays. Among the finest to date: It's All in the Timing, staged at the Guild this March as part of The Prince Edward Island Pay-What-You-Can Theatre Festival. 

First off, the festival itself is a wonderful idea. Affordable, accessible, professional-quality theatre is a great thing to see on PEI, especially in the oft-inactive winter months. What the PWYC festival collective is doing here is art, yes, and it’s satisfying entertainment, but it’s also commendable community service. 

Happily, Timing satisfies in terms of both quality and quantity. The Guild’s similarly excellent 2015 set of short Pinter plays featured some of the current PWYC creative team, but that show’s three plays barely filled an hour. All in the Timing’s six plays roughly double that running time, a fuller evening of theatre and a better bargain even before you factor in PWYC’s audience-friendly pricing. 

Featuring plays penned by David Ives between 1987 and 1993, All in the Timing premiered in 1993 and was published in 1994. A later expanded edition of the print version included 14 Ives plays, with 1997’s Mere Mortals among the additions. The PWYC production features five of the six original plays, replacing the 1993 show’s Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread (1990) with Mere Mortals.  

Sure Thing (1988) features potential couple Bill (director Adam Brazier) and Betty (Melissa Kramer) meeting in a cafe, where the scene pauses and resets repeatedly as it cycles through dozens of possible outcomes. It’s fast, funny and well-played, though Kramer’s projection could use a boost in spots. 

Variations on the Death of Trotsky (1991) is a darkly surreal comedy starring oddball provincial treasure Graham Putnam as Russian revolutionary Trotsky, fatally wounded by an axe lodged in his head, pondering life, death and his legacy as he dies multiple times. Hilarious, disturbing and oddly poignant, the play (directed by Mark Fraser) boasts strong support from Catherine O'Brien and Fraser McCallum as Trotsky’s wife and killer, respectively. 

The Universal Language (1993) features eager student Dawn (Becca Griffin) learning bizarre nonsense language Unamunda from sketchy tutor Don (Donnie Macphee). It’s great fun from start to finish thanks to Ives’ deliriously inventive wordplay and a pair of thoroughly charming leads directed by Catherine O'Brien. 

Mere Mortals, directed by Brazier, casts Putnam, Macphee and Lennie MacPherson as seemingly ordinary construction workers hiding some very strange secret identities. The script, direction and performances all combine for a superbly-paced slow burn as the story’s weirdness escalates, all while preserving its heroes’ blue collar personalities. All three actors are great in this, especially MacPherson. 

The Philadelphia (1992) stars Brazier/Putnam/Kramer, directed by Marlane O’Brien, in a fun, well-played little oddity about a man trapped in a Philadelphia-inspired alternative reality of sorts where you can’t get anything you want. 

He’s almost as frustrated as the simian stars of Words, Words, Words (1987), directed by Fraser, in which three lab monkeys (Griffin/McCallum/MacPherson) are forced to type endlessly in hopes of randomly replicating Shakespeare. It’s a smart, funny script with plenty of nifty physical monkey business from the cast, especially top banana Griffin’s oft-hilarious, eerily convincing chimp-like facial & vocal tics.

Tears for Two

Grace and Glorie 

Review by Sean McQuaid 

Your past-his-best-before-date playgoer has always had a soft spot for older folks, even as a youngster. Living more or less next door to my wonderful maternal grandparents might have had something to do with it, but it’s also been a long-recurring element in my favourite entertainment. 

As a kid, for instance, I always liked the greying Justice Society of America (JSA) formed in the 1940s better than their younger Justice League of America (JLA) counterparts, and the annual JLA-JSA team-ups were my favourite JLA comic book stories. 

As I got older, some of my favourite TV shows similarly bridged the old/young divide, like the colourful intergenerational cast of WKRP in Cincinnati, where sleazy salesman Herb Tarlek’s elderly father once opined that the only difference between being young and being old was that it takes courage to be old. 

That sentiment came back to me repeatedly while watching playwright Tom Ziegler’s 1991 melodramedy Grace and Glorie, the full length play component of this year’s excellent Pay-What-You-Can Theatre Festival at the Guild. Directed by Adam Brazier and assistant director Graham Putnam, it’s set in a remote Blue Ridge Mountains shack where 90-year-old cancer patient Grace (Marlane O’Brien) has retreated to face her imminent death. 

Grace gets unsolicited assistance aplenty from hospice volunteer Glorie (Catherine O’Brien), an accomplished New York lawyer who has left her lucrative practice and moved to rural Kentucky after a family tragedy. Friction and miscommunication ensue as the spiritual, simple, country-bred farm widow and the cynical, sophisticated, city-bred attorney get to know each other. 

Cue The Odd Couple theme music, one might say, and Ziegler’s script does opt for broad, easy laughs in spots, especially at the expense of Glorie’s sometimes cartoonishly severe inability to cope with country life, whether she’s cowering in terror of mice, burning herself on the woodstove or letting chickens push her around. 

But if Ziegler’s characters are a bit broadly drawn by times, and the rough outlines of their emerging friendship fairly predictable, the play makes up for it with the compelling background details it builds up around its setting and its characters, as well as the bigger philosophical issues it explores with humour and heart regarding how one lives and how one dies. 

The play’s thoughtful ruminations on age and mortality remind me of another old TV favourite, the superb Twilight Zone anthology series (1959-1964). Series creator Rod Serling was half-fascinated, half-haunted by aging, a topic featured in about 20 of the show’s episodes, including series highlights such as "Walking Distance", "The Trouble with Templeton" and "Nothing in the Dark". The latter George Clayton Johnson script, with its elderly recluse Wanda awaiting the grim reaper, is pleasantly echoed by Gracie’s own half-religious, half-superstitious anticipation of personified Death coming for her. 

Quiet, understated sequences like Gracie’s talk of awaiting the reaper are among the strongest moments of this production; and while the broad comedy elements fit both O’Briens like a glove (despite a few overly shouty exchanges), Marlane O’Brien in particular does some of her best work here in the quieter bits with some genuinely moving line readings.  

Beyond the cast, the overall craft and production values are strong despite the perhaps-limited budget that comes with a Pay-What-You-Can production. Suitably old-timey furnishings and props convincingly embody Gracie’s shack, and extensive sound effects add a lot in terms of mood and colour, as well as facilitating certain plot points. It’s a very solid production, and commendably affordable for all audiences.

Festive Special

P.E.I Community Theatre Festival  

By Sean McQuaid 

Before we were dating, my future wife reportedly described me to her best friend as “the dense one.” Seems I was slow-on-the-uptake in some respects back then. Decades later, this year’s PEI Community Theatre Festival proved that little has changed in that regard. 

I’d gone to see the festival’s featured shows and possibly write something about them. This year’s festival entries included improv games by Spotlight School of Arts, the latest iteration of the Mi’kmaq Heritage Actors’ charming, self-assured Tales from Long Ago, and excerpts from ACT’s recent production of The Dining Room, still stellar. 

All good stuff, as were the entries representing various geographic communities. There are small local theatrical venues and groups all over PEI, from St. Peters to Tyne Valley and beyond, and the festival offers a singular chance to gather samples of these far-flung theatre scenes for a Charlottetown audience. Communities represented this year included Murray Harbour (The Murray Players’ A Partridge in a Pear Tree), Tracadie (The Tracadie Players’ A Trip to the Dentist) and Georgetown (The Kings Players’ Pygmalion excerpt). 

All three groups fared well, though my favourite was probably Tracadie’s dental romp — not because my aunt Joanne Schieck was in it (conflict of interest #247 in a series, collect them all), but just because it was such fun. Chock full of stock characterizations, goofy gags and shamelessly punny character names worthy of Max Allan Collins, it was powerfully corny stuff but lots of laughs, especially some primo Brian Craig slapstick. I literally slapped my knee at one point as I guffawed, mentally chiding myself for becoming a human cliché as I did so. 

As for that “dense one” business I mentioned? Turns out there was a seventh item not listed in the festival program, the presentation of ACT's semi-annual Community Theatre Appreciation Award. ACT rep Keir Malone was a good ways into his eloquent introduction before I had the vaguest inkling of who he was talking about, which turned out to be me. 

Keir said some very kind, exceedingly generous things about my theatre background in general and my theatre reviewing in particular, and presented me with one of the niftiest gifts I’ve ever received: a framed Sandy Carruthers caricature of yours truly scribbling a theatre review while reading a Kid Colt comic (eerily close to my actual writing process, really). 

I was beyond surprised. My wife, daughter and others had successfully concealed the award plans from me for about a month, hence my dumbfounded deer-in-headlights reaction. Both touched and vaguely unsettled by their expert hoodwinkery, I later urged them to use their surprisingly potent powers of deception only for good. 

My mother-in-law said the award presentation was the only time she’s ever seen me at a loss for words. I was then (and remain now) slightly overwhelmed by it all — such a gracious gesture, expressed through a very fine artist’s work as presented by one of PEI’s best actors on behalf of such an admirable organization. I’m not sure I deserve it, but I do appreciate it. 

In that spirit, and still groping for words adequate to the task, I’ve just one thing left to say to Carol, Elsa, Keir, Sandy, Rob, Kim, Peter and all the other folks who made this happen: Thank you all so much.

Table Dancing

The Dining Room

Review by Sean McQuaid

Your rumpled reviewer seems slightly out of place at the stately Elmwood Heritage Inn. A beautiful historic property tucked away at the end of a long, curved driveway off busy North River Road, it's an atypically fancy setting for yours truly.

Walking up the front steps on a dark winter's night, I felt a bit like a doomed minor character in the opening minutes of some classy haunted house movie. The warm, welcoming interior quickly dispelled any such ominous notions; but the evening was full of phantoms all the same, courtesy of ACT's new production of A.R. Gurney's The Dining Room

Gurney's first big success, this 1982 script epitomizes his speciality: satirizing and celebrating the well-to-do WASP culture in which he grew up. Set in an elegant traditional family dining room, the play features eighteen oft-overlapping scenes played out around, atop and even under the venerable dining room table. 

Each scene offers a different set of characters in a different time period, vignettes spanning decades and generations. These scenarios flow surreally into each other, sometimes playing simultaneously. As one character unwittingly-yet-aptly puts it on another topic, "It's as if we didn't exist. As if we were all just... ghosts, or something."

All 55 of Gurney's ghosts are portrayed by six quick-changing actors, each playing characters of widely varying ages, circumstances and personalities. Deftly directed by able ACT staple Terry Pratt, this versatile sextet includes Dylan Gaudet, Corin McFadden, Noah Nazim, Barbara Rhodenizer, Suzanne Wilkie and Teresa Wright. 

It's a uniformly solid, remarkably nimble cast. Ever-masterful ACT mainstay Rhodenizer shines as an officious, guilt-mongering mother, a boozily jaded teenager and an operatically outraged elder aunt, while multi-faceted McFadden excels as a detestably icy martinet of a father, a gleeful child, a bitter old man and more. 

Younger cast members Gaudet and Wilkie round out the cast skillfully, sometimes in younger parts — like Gaudet as an amusingly blunt anthropology student or Wilkie as a scattered, newly lesbian ex-housewife trying to move back in with her parents — and sometimes capably filling parts well beyond their years, like Wilkie's sad, unnerving turn as an old woman losing her memory. 

Local reporter Wright is returning to the stage after a long absence, but the only hint of said absence is its mention in the show's program. Wright's naturally cool poise helps her slide smoothly into the skins of Gurney's upper crust creations, and she also plays well against type in parts like a gloomily taciturn maid or a boisterous child. 

The uniquely talented Nazim, meanwhile, does some of his best work. Always a vivid stage presence, his occasional over-the-top tendencies are largely absent here as he shows impressive range, quiet charm and nuanced restraint, helping craft some of the production's best moments, like a sweetly romantic encounter with Wright or a funny, poignant father-son scene with McFadden. 

The 56th character in the show is the dining room itself, which ACT is staging in multiple venues: smaller, intimate spaces like the Elmwood Heritage Inn and the Haviland Club, and a more conventional theatrical run at le Carrefour Theatre. With a delicious cast making a meal of Gurney's funny, thoughtful script, Pratt's fine production is worth a look wherever it's playing.

Performances of The Dining Room take place at Le Carrefour Theatre February 17 and 18 at 7:30 pm and February 18 at 2 pm. Tickets are available at www.ticketwizard.ca.

Girl’s in the Hood

Robyn Hood — This Tale's Even Fairlier

Review by Sean McQuaid 

Your quivering quibbler enjoys archers. Hawkeye, Green Arrow & Speedy, Yondu Udonta, the Spider, Artemis, Merida, Moonbow, Huntress, Daryl Dixon, Danielle Moonstar, Kate Bishop, Katniss Everdeen — the heroic archer archetype has a uniquely dashing appeal. 

Of course, Robin Hood is the swashbuckling standard, whether played straight by the likes of Errol Flynn (1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood) and Kevin Costner (1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) or for laughs as in Daffy Duck’s Robin Hood Daffy (1958) and Walt Disney’s animated classic Robin Hood (1973), not to mention televised assault on sanity Rocket Robin Hood (1966-1969). 

So Robin Hood’s a fairly flexible icon, suitable for both comedy and adventure — and there’s loads of the former (plus a little of the latter) in this season’s Confederation Centre of the Arts community Christmas show, Robyn Hood — This Tale's Even Fairlier. Like the Centre’s earlier Fairly Tall Tale shows written and directed by Adam Brazier, it’s a deliberately goofy jukebox musical take on a classic story. 

In this distaff version of the Hood legend, female PEI outlaw Robyn Hood (a lively Maria Campbell) of Sherwood-Parkdale Forest subverts unjust ruler Prince John (Matthew Rainnie) with the aid of her Merry Men and earnest do-gooder Maid Marion (Jessica Gallant), while weepy royal underling the Town Crier (Sarah MacPhee) gets caught in the middle. 

The ever-entertaining MacPhee’s fun recurring role as the Town Crier from Brazier’s previous Fairly musicals is greatly expanded here, and Robyn’s Merry Men include a formidable female Friar Tuck (Alana Bridgewater) who doubles as a fittingly gospel-infused musical narrator of sorts, so pretty much all the major roles are gals except for Rainnie. My preteen daughter liked that progressive aspect of the show, especially seeing a female Robin Hood. 

She also enjoyed the music, singing along with tunes like “9 to 5,” “Firework” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Plenty of fine vocalists in the cast, and able musician/actor types like guitar-strummers Fraser McCallum & Jordan Cameron (as the Merry Men’s Will Scarlett & Little John) help give the show a fun house party feel, especially in an excellent “Feel the Same Way Too” group number. 

This year, Brazier collaborated with co-writer Graham Putnam (also fine here in several small acting roles), and it’s a nice mix. The gleeful, unabashedly silly tone of Brazier’s work endures, but there’s less toilet humour, more pop culture references, more and better local/topical gags, and increasingly frequent, clever fourth-wall-breaking material ranging from amusingly named-and-shamed bit players like Kid One (Noah MacKinnon) to surreal literary crossover character Moody MacPherson (Andrew Clow). 

It’s not all comedy gold — the Moody character as written is a bit funnier in concept than he is in execution, as is the Merry Men’s “exchange hoodlum” from Quebec, Déjà vu (Cameron MacDonald) — neither the script nor a nebulously-accented MacDonald ever seems fully certain of what to do with that character. 

There’s lots to love here, though, whether it’s oddball supporting players like the Prince’s guards (Duncan MacAulay’s artfully slow-motion battle demise springs to mind) or the uniformly solid main cast, especially the deliciously hammy, hilarious Rainnie, who evokes Peter Ustinov’s classic 1973 version of Prince John without aping it. The Merry Men may be thieves, but Rainnie’s priceless prince steals every scene he’s in — and this play’s all the richer for it. 

Hope on a Rope

The Laramie Project 

Review by Sean McQuaid 

Humans like to find meaning in stuff — and as an unreasonable facsimile of a human, your pensive prattler is no exception. Watching ACT’s production of The Laramie Project at the Guild, a serious play trying to make sense of a serious real-life crime, I caught myself reading profundity or poetry into random things around me as the evening wore on.

Odd little rectangular strips of paper spiraling aimlessly down onto the stage from somewhere above us; quasi-disembodied sounds of grief from an oft-teary audience during the play; a sleek fox slinking through the half-lit shadows of Victoria Row after the show, wisely shunning the unpredictable bipeds. 

It all felt a bit unsettling, unreal, despite watching a play full of real events about real people. The Laramie Project is chock full of unpredictable bipeds, wonderful and awful and everything in between, and one can hardly blame the foxes for avoiding such unfathomably erratic creatures. 

Inspired by the brutal murder of young gay man Matthew Shepard on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming in 1998, The Laramie Project explores the event and its aftermath, including public debate over how society should deal with anti-homosexual prejudice. 

Moisés Kaufman and his Tectonic Theater Project colleagues wrote the play collaboratively, drawn from hundreds of interviews they conducted with Laramie residents after Shepard’s demise. The result is an impressionistic series of vignettes in which eight actors play dozens of different characters talking about Shepard’s life and death and the impact he had on Laramie and the world. 

There’s emotional manipulation on the authors’ part, and the play isn’t always subtle or even-handed about its messages, but it’s a moving story — and surprisingly versatile in terms of mood and tone. Often horrific and sad, it’s also disarmingly funny in spots and expresses a hopeful attitude about the future. It’s not just an earnest theatrical screed. 

Director Paul Whelan keeps it simple — minimal props and furnishings, practically no set, just eight actors cycling through assorted identities. Screen projections add context and colour, notably images of Laramie, but the real attraction here is Whelan’s omni-faceted acting octet: Guy Brun, Kassinda Bulger, Emily Anne Fullerton, Adam Gauthier, Margaret MacEachern, Keir Malone, Rory Starkman and Tim Wartman. 

There are occasional hiccups — actors such as Brun and Steele stumble over their lines briefly in spots (mostly unobtrusively), while Bulger and others could stand to boost their projection ever so slightly on occasion — but all eight actors do fine, memorable work here in impressively varied roles. 

Sometimes it’s the specificity of character that impresses, the creation of distinctive personalities like the mannered warmth of Brun’s decent, didactic priest; sometimes it’s interplay, like the easy rapport between a mother and daughter played by MacEachern and Fullerton; sometimes it’s moments of sheer goofy fun, like Fullerton’s over-the-top waitress, Wartman’s folksy Doc O’Connor or Bulger’s giddy reading of student Zubaida Ula’s metadramatic line about the weirdness of becoming a theatrical character. 

Other times it’s just sheer emotional punch, ranging from the quiet intensity of multiple Gauthier, Malone and Wartman monologues to the operatic anguish of Starkman’s star turn as Shepard’s would-be rescuer Aaron Kreifels. There’s something and someone for everyone in this richly diverse cast of characters and actors. 

Kaufman’s text is repetitive or heavy-handed in spots, but it’s an impressively sweeping, unflinching picture of a community and the crime that rocked it, all the more impressive for its underlying optimism about a potentially better tomorrow. As Doc O’Connor says in a plainspoken ode to mercy and forgiveness, “the whole thing ropes around hope.”

Ladies in Waiting

Waiting for the Parade 

Review by Sean McQuaid

Your postwar prattler has always had a soft spot for World War II — as an artistic subject, anyway. The real–life historical conflict may have been a tragic disaster that killed millions and damaged millions more, but there’s lots to like in that era's artistic output and the war has inspired many period pieces in subsequent decades. 

One such piece is Waiting for the Parade, penned by Texas–born, Alberta–based playwright John Murrell in 1977 and oft–remounted since then, most recently at the venerable Kings Playhouse in Georgetown. Murrell’s script explores the lives of five Calgary women on the home front during World War II, played here by Samantha Bruce, Grace Kimpinski, Madeleine Mitchell, Hannah Morgan and Playhouse executive director Haley Zavo. 

Murrell’s women include haughty Janet (Zavo), self-righteous leader of local volunteer activities supporting the war effort, overcompensating for her husband dodging military service; lonely Catherine (Mitchell), who endures her spouse’s overseas military service through a mix of factory work, alcohol and infidelity; mousey Eve (Morgan), an idealistic pacifist schoolteacher whose older husband is a bitterly jingoistic warmonger; blunt Margaret (Kimpinski), an aging widow with one son at war and one in jail; and proud Marta (Bruce), a defiantly nonconformist German immigrant whose father is jailed as a supposed spy. 

Justifiably angry, fatalistically funny and wearily resilient, outsider Marta is the story’s most fascinatingly multi–layered character, played with pleasingly ambiguous comic aplomb by Bruce. Murrell's unsympathetic insider Janet is a ploddingly predictable establishment heavy by comparison, but a nuanced performance here makes her more than a cartoon villain in moments such as Zavo’s eloquently silent sadness in the play’s final scene. 

Mitchell’s entertaining work as flawed–but–vital Catherine hits comedic and dramatic notes with equal élan, while a winningly well–cast Morgan and a matter–of–fact Kimpinski capably land many of the show's bigger laugh lines. 

Director Susan Hammond–Bruce keeps her staging commendably simple. The play's handful of settings is represented by a shifting assortment of furnishings and props often moved around by the cast themselves, with the actors literally and figuratively doing most of the heavy lifting. 

Period music (both recorded and live) and numerous sound effects help convey varied moods and situations, though scene changes feel inconsistent in this regard — some of the scene–shifting blackouts are covered by music or sound effects but others are not, making the latter more awkwardly conspicuous transitions since the scene changers are often somewhat visible or audible. 

That's a relatively peripheral element, though, as is one of this production's nicer extras: a collection of war memorabilia curated by Wayne Hambly and displayed in the lobby evokes the play's time period while offering a solemnly tangible reminder of the people whose wartime sacrifices helped secure our modern freedoms.

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