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Open House at My f STUDIO

An artisan’s cooperative in East Point will hold an open house on September 22 from 12 to 3 pm. Th [ ... ]

A Course in Miracles

Every Friday evening at 7 pm a group meets for an in depth study and discussion of the text “A Cou [ ... ]

Partial Things

An Evening of Short Plays by Harold Pinter

Review by Sean McQuaid 

Your outsize appraiser fancies undersize drama. That's one of the things I like about the late Harold Pinter, author of so many short plays and sketches. These include Silence (1969), Press Conference (2002) and One for the Road (1984), all staged by Winston Smith Theatre at the Guild as a Pinter triple feature in October. 

Of course, brevity isn't Pinter's only selling point. His work is dark, funny, oddly enigmatic—showing more than telling, often hinting more than showing. Pinter tends to make his audience work at figuring out who's who and what the heck is going on. 

In fact, Pinter's shadowy weirdness—such as oft-ominous "comedy of menace" featuring dark humour with intimations of darker doings just out of view—arguably works best in short form. One recalls Twilight Zone scripters, referencing that great show's less successful double-length incarnation, discussing how hard it is to sustain bizarre, intense stories for long without diluting their punch. Similarly, Pinter's better shorts get into your head and get out before you quite know what's hit you. 

Winston Smith Theatre (presumably named for the character from George Orwell's anti-authoritarian novel 1984) had billed its Pinter triple feature as a political statement timed to coincide with the recent federal election, and parallels between the two aren't hard to find. 

Contrary to popular rhetoric in some quarters, the newly defeated Prime Minister Stephen Harper was never literally a dictator, nor did his regime ever commit any crimes even remotely equivalent to those of Pinter's brutally corrupt authorities in One for the Road and Press Conference. 

That being said, Harper ran an often ugly government by Canadian standards, and its darker instincts aped elements of Pinter's rogue regimes: secretive, controlling, intrusive, arbitrary, paranoid, vindictive, hypocritical, sanctimonious, vainglorious, openly contemptuous of dissent, and above all saturated with a never-ending stream of propaganda that drenched almost everything Harper's government ever said or did in oceans of Orwellian double talk. 

Perhaps most tellingly, Harper's exploitation of the niqab issue and other cynically manufactured cultural controversies during his final campaign evoked the words of Pinter's corrupt official Nicolas in One for the Road, who makes the political pitch that "we all share a common heritage" as if that trumps everything else. For these and other reasons, the Winston Smith gang's pairing of their Pinter showcase with the election feels timely and apt. 

The least political play in this triple bill, enigmatic oddity Silence, is a disjointed meditation on memory and relationships as voiced by Ellen (Melissa Kramer) and her two suitors Rumsey (Lennie MacPherson) and Bates (Donnie MacPhee). Kramer's pretty perfect in this, drifting dreamily through the short's shifting times, places and emotions. MacPhee is effective as her rougher love interest Bates while MacPherson offers definite contrast as the meeker Rumsey, but is so quiet and understated as to flirt with inaudibility or indifference by times, less compelling than the rest of this triangle. 

The show's director Adam Brazier is perfect as the Minister in Press Conference, cheerfully performing a grotesque variation on political spin in which the usual sort of sunnily sanitized, self-serving political rhetoric is applied to more overtly horrific subject matter than usual. 

But the triple bill saves its best for last with One for the Road, starring the show's producer Jody Racicot as Nicolas and Donnie MacPhee, Katie Kerr and Noah MacKinnon as a dissident family held in his abusive custody. All four actors are good, but Racicot shines brightest with his quicksilver shifts in tone, style and mood—alternately genial, vicious, quiet, loud, laconic or violent depending on the moment, but always menacing and compelling throughout. 

Racicot's sinister star turn caps off the night in bravura style, though it also intensifies one's feeling come the final curtain that it all ends too soon. These three plays only fill about an hour in total, making this particular Pinter showcase more of a tasty snack than a full theatrical meal. 

Comic relief

Kooperman

Review by Sean McQuaid 

Andrew Murray and Dylan Miller in a scene from KoopermanYe olde reviewer has a yen for yesteryear film-wise, watching more cinema classics than new releases; but I catch the odd fresh flick now and then, and local indie film Kooperman was uniquely alluring McQuaid bait on multiple levels. 

For one thing, being locally produced by Periscope Pictures, it includes various folks I know personally among its cast and crew. Readers can read as much or as little critical conflict of interest into that as they like, but it certainly played a role in luring me to the film’s packed City Cinema provincial premiere on October 16. 

The project’s geography was another draw. Co-written by producer Jason Rogerson and director Harmony Wagner, Kooperman is billed as the first ever PEI-made feature film. Set in and filmed on PEI with a soundtrack by local musicians, it counted 79 Islanders among its 85 employees. It’s a bit of a developmental milestone for PEI cinema, in terms of showing what’s possible in this province. As they say in Wackyland, “It can happen here.” 

Also intriguing is the film’s lead, Dylan Miller. Owner of real-life Charlottetown comic shop Lightning Bolt Comics (where much of the movie is shot), Miller plays struggling comic book retailer Griffin Kooperman. Miller’s always been kind of a low-key side man in local theatre, arguably the Aquaman in his circle of theatrical Super Friends, so how well he’d fare as a cinematic lead was one of the film’s bigger question marks. 

As it turns out, he fares quite well indeed. Granted, he’s playing a character whose life and personality overlap with the real-life Miller in various ways, but it’s still a very impressive performance – genuine, sympathetic, funny, even moving. In fact, the nuance Miller brings to his work plays better on film than it sometimes does in theatre, enhancing and showcasing fine details that don’t always pop on stage. 

Wagner and Rogerson surround him with a quality supporting cast, notably Andrew Murray, Carl Peterson and Adi Vella, all entertaining as Kooperman’s comic shop cronies; a creepily funny Jeremy Larter, who makes the most of a dead-end subplot as a perverted fake psychologist; and an immensely likeable Tamara Steele, who exudes benevolent warmth as Kooperman’s totemic, super-heroic imaginary friend. 

The Wagner/Rogerson script is often smart and funny, though its humour occasionally veers into adolescent crudity. Admittedly I’m more of a Margaret Dumont than a Melissa McCarthy in terms of my comedic sensibilities, but sometimes this coarseness is a bit much – in particular, a catastrophic fecal field trip feels excessive in terms of both length and content, though some audience members were clearly digging it. 

That fecal detour, like the Larter material, is one of a few spots where Kooperman feels padded – there’s an episodic, meandering, occasionally repetitive rhythm to the movie’s narrative by times, as Kooperman works to save his struggling store and his dignity, suffering assorted setbacks – but the film’s core story and characters are appealing, engaging and often fun. 

A lot of this feels familiar. With its aspiration-challenged retail working stiffs, pop culture references (loved the nod to Armless Tiger Man), super-heroic imaginary friends and more, Kooperman’s tone, themes and content often echo Rogerson’s first big stage success Players, which itself echoed Kevin Smith films like Clerks. That’s more of a curiosity than a criticism, though, as much of the film’s considerable wit, charm and personality is built on that foundation. Wagner and Rogerson can be justifiably proud of what they’ve achieved with a small Telefilm Canada grant and a large pool of Island talent. 

A cast of standouts

Evangeline

Review by Sean McQuaid

When the Charlottetown Festival announced its 2015 theatrical line-up featuring the girl power trinity of Alice, Anne and Evangeline, your rascally reviewer remarked on how this combo could become an adorable merchandising juggernaut along the lines of Disney Princesses: Festival Fillies, collect them all! 

I was joking, of course—unless it actually happens someday, in which case I'll demand my cut —but in all seriousness, it's great to see the Festival mounting three significant, ambitious shows like this in one season, and the fact they all feature female leads is a rather neat incidental bonus. 

For me, Evangeline takes the bronze on this year's Festival podium—not as fun or as freaky as Alice, and nothing beats Anne in terms of warm, fuzzy theatrical comfort food—but Evangeline's an undeniably well-crafted, musically rich, often emotionally powerful show. 

Written by Ted Dykstra and based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1847 epic poem of the same name, 2013 musical Evangeline chronicles the British Empire’s 18th-Century expulsion of the Acadians as personified by Acadian newlyweds Evangeline (Josée Boudreau) and Gabriel (Jay Davis), separated during the expulsion and doomed to decades of heartsick wandering. 

New leads Boudreau and Davis are solidly entertaining performers with great voices, capably backed by a big cast whose standouts include fellow newcomers Brent Carver (as clergyman Father Felician), Stephen Guy-McGrath (as fiddler/notary René), Sera-Lys McArthur (as Shawnee nomad Cornflower) and Cameron MacDuffee (distinctive and versatile in multiple roles). 

Meanwhile, excellent returning cast members Laurie Murdoch and Réjean Cournoyer continue to play the heck out of the show's two primary British characters: morally conflicted Colonel Winslow and cartoonishly evil Captain Hampson, respectively. 

Directed by Bob Baker and co-produced by Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre, the 2015 production is faster, more lively, more colourful—changes to the blocking, choreography, projections and set (including a revolving stage) give the show more visual energy and verve, and some minor script revisions streamline the story a bit. 

Yet despite all the outward modifications, Evangeline remains a somewhat ponderous show at its core—long (still a good three hours), repetitive, melodramatic and a bit overstuffed, partly because some of the musical sequences seem to be more about celebrating culture than advancing story. Evangeline's adventures span "many a tedious year" (to borrow Longfellow's phrase), so any faithful version is going to be more of a marathon than a sprint, but Dkystra's version of the tale feels drawn out regardless. 

There's a lot to like here, and the Festival still deserves major kudos for midwifing such an ambitious new Canadian musical; but for all its undeniably stirring music and artful flourishes, Evangeline remains for me a show more admired than enjoyed. 

A Big Laugh

ABigWHAT

Review by Sean McQuaid 

For all his Bohemian quirks, your prim and proper prattler is a bit of a square at heart. Heck, in the old days I was practically a young male version of Margaret Dumont (the society stiff from the Marx Brothers movies), forever aghast at the world's innumerable improprieties. 

A couple of decades later, I'm far less easily shocked—more jaded or more tolerant, maybe both. Capable of watching assorted modern cable TV dramas without too many palpitations, anyhow. 

That being said, I'm still not a fan of crassly bawdy humour or gratuitous profanity in my entertainment, and that caveat is my one real quibble with the largely excellent ABigWHAT sketch comedy show starring Benton Hartley, Olivia King, Cameron MacDonald, Jacob Rollwage and Morgan Wagner. 

Granted, this is coming from a guy who'd rather watch Wayne & Shuster than Family Guy—"bit of a square," like I said—but I think it's possible to be subversive and weird and funny without working blue. The original Muppet Show springs to mind, in that spirit—freaky enough that the show's comically upright Sam the Eagle (possibly my spirit animal) could denounce it, but nearly always tasteful. 

Putting things in perspective, this complaint is intended more as an asterisk than an accusation—ABigWHAT features adroit, funny, laudably inventive sketch comedy, and I'd recommend it to anyone who isn't easily offended (stay home, zombie Margaret Dumont)—but however hard I laughed at much of the show, part of me regrets that there's quite so much cussing and off-colour gags in the mix. Especially since a troupe this intelligent and creative could probably sustain their comedic stride just fine without those crutches. 

Mind you, "edgy" humour's been the sketch comedy tradition in Charlottetown for well over a decade now. Off Stage Theatre's long-running 1990s sketch comedy gem Annekenstein gave way to the similarly enduring Sketch 22 show in the 2000s, and while the two shows had personnel in common (notably accomplished funnyman Rob MacDonald, Cameron's dad), the latter show typically worked way more blue than the former ever did. 

ABigWHAT owes quite a bit to Sketch 22 in terms of both tone and format (like its predecessor it combines live sketches with filmed video segments), but arguably improves the formula with stronger characters, often superior acting and a more unified, coherent show. 

The most familiar faces in the cast are Cameron MacDonald and Ben Hartley, both Popalopalots improv veterans, in addition to the hardworking Hartley appearing in scads of other shows (seriously, he's like the "Where's Waldo" of local low-budget theatre). The duo complement each other, style-wise. Hartley plays pretty straight more often than not, which both plays to his strengths and gives his oft-wackier scene partners a sturdy foil, while the frequently freaky MacDonald might be PEI theatre's most weirdly gifted comic savant since Sketch 22's Graham Putnam. 

Jacob Rollwage falls somewhere in the middle of that Hartley-MacDonald comedic spectrum—a more distinctively strange comedic presence than Hartley, not quite as adaptably versatile as MacDonald—but the strongest standouts of this show might actually be distaff duo King and Wagner. Both from a musical theatre background (including roles in Anne & Gilbert), they are charming, likeable performers with impressively solid acting chops, elevating whatever scene they're in whether their parts are large or small, oddball or straight. 

The show's video segments in particular reinforce that impression, making it easier to see and hear all the shadings and nuances that King and Wagner bring to their roles—like in "Basement Amazement," where King's nimbly expressive face conveys hapless webcaster Candy Furlong's amusingly pathetic emotional beats with crystal clarity even when she's not talking, and in which Wagner's darkly downbeat cameo as MacDonald's "matron" somehow makes an immeasurably creepy weirdo played perfectly by MacDonald even scarier.  

Both very funny, King and Wagner tend to give somewhat more grounded, relatably human performances than the show's leading laugh machine MacDonald—like Hartley, they do a lot to balance out the ensemble.  

The strength and diversity of that ensemble might be part of why ABigWHAT already seems capable of something Sketch 22 seldom achieved: generating concepts and characters with legs. That's partly due to how uneven Sketch 22 could be—its try anything, swing-for-the-fences approach spawned more than a few outright duds sprinkled among its comedic gems—but even their best bits, brilliant sketches like "Atlantis Regional Municipality" and the Atticus Finch game show, tended to be one-and-done exercises that didn't necessarily lend themselves to recurring characters. 

ABigWHAT, by comparison, features some memorably distinctive and funny characters who seem to have plenty of life in them beyond a single sketch. The show's "Sighants" video shorts about bizarre fringe pseudo-science are a fun recurring segment, for instance. MacDonald is great in a drily understated role as the monocled intellectual host of these ludicrous interludes, which build to a satisfyingly big sci-fi climax late in the show, one of several recurring threads over the course of the evening. And while "Basement Amazement" seems to have been meant as a one-shot, it left me wanting lots more adventures of King's adorkable misfit Candy Furlong. 

Like any sketch comedy show, the humour is somewhat hit-or-miss—for every "Superfly" that soars with wildly quirky nonsense there's "A Day at the Office" that overstays its welcome—and the language and content are a bit on the salty side for more delicate viewers. But there's a lot to like in this commendably clever, endearingly energetic show, Margaret Dumont be darned. 

ABigWHAT's summer season is over as of publication time, but for a fine sample of their comedy wares, check out this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHgkts-j9ig

Fringe Element

The Island Fringe Festival

Review by Sean McQuaid 

Your haphazard hack was not actually assigned to cover the Island Fringe Festival this year—he just wandered into three fringe shows strictly as a civilian one weekend, and the Buzz editor later suggested it might be worth writing up. Hence the coverage of only three random shows, with apologies to those omitted. 

All three shows were solid, to varying degrees, and all seemed popular as well—the two indoor shows on my slate were both filled to capacity, those being Busted 2: The Sagging Continues at Merchantman's Next Door Lounge, and Small Talk at The Kettle Black. Lots of happy, enthusiastic theatre fans in attendance at each location. 

As its title suggests, Busted 2 is the sequel to last year's Busted: a Mammoir, writer/actor Laura K. Bird's one-woman show about the ups and downs of a large-bosomed life. Stuffy old square that I am, I'm never fully comfy with body humour or bawdy humour, and the Busted shows offer mounds of the former with occasional flashes of the latter, so I'm a tough audience. Still, my zaftig better half having attended both shows in the spirit of solidarity, taking me along as her sour arm candy, I was pretty well entertained each time in spite of myself. Bird is a smart, funny lady who knows how to work a crowd, and her often clever, sometimes poignant, frequently self-deprecating humour milks her subject matter for bountiful laughs. 

Considerably blacker body-based humour informs Blindness: a Dark Comedy, staged outside the Hon. George Coles Building. Written by and starring Marieve MacGregor, the play is a darkly comic exploration of living with blindness, MacGregor herself having been blinded by complications of diabetes. While MacGregor does most of the talking, it's nowhere near a one-woman show. Assorted actors play aspects of MacGregor's psyche and various characters from her life, and several musicians provide a soundtrack. 

The resulting show offers a lot of variety performance-wise and is often thoughtful, bravely honest and funny. The humour is sometimes uncomfortable given the subject matter, though, and some of the monologues can get preachy or maudlin. The play also seems lacking in focus by times, and one wonders if a slightly stripped-down version with a smaller cast might have more impact. The current cast mostly play their parts well, though, notably the funny and versatile Andrea Filion. 

Saving the best for last, Small Talk was staged in The Kettle Black cafe downtown. It's an unlikely theatre venue, a long, narrow space dominated by a central bar, but one of the many impressive things about this show is how skillfully it's adapted to that space. The bar becomes a set of morgue slabs inhabited by two anonymous Janes, oddly chatty corpses played by writer Kassinda Bulger and director Courtney Starkman, who perform on, under and around that bar and its overhead hanging lamps with plentiful energy and enviable agility. 

The Janes swap stories and theories about their situation, gradually discovering their fates are somewhat more intertwined than they might have thought. It's very nicely staged, and very well acted by both performers as they effectively convey the simultaneous comedy, tragedy and surreal horror of their situation. Bulger's script is funny, sad, clever and refreshingly economical—short and bittersweet. This aging Twilight Zone fan is a sucker for short fantasy drama scripts, and Bulger has penned a good one. Here's hoping it's the first of many such creations from her fledgling Art Without Borders troupe. 

Denmark in the Park

Hamlet

Review by Sean McQuaid 

Ye olde reviewer has a long relationship with Hamlet, the iconic William Shakespeare tragedy. Like MacBeth and Julius Caesar, it's one of the first Shakespeare plays that I started reading for fun, not just for school, though it figured repeatedly in my schooling as well. 

Heck, as an undergraduate full of hubris, youthful enthusiasm and Kraft Dinner, I even wrote a blank verse sequel to Hamlet: Horatio, starring the Danish prince's scholarly chum. That's how much I like Shakespeare's original tale of revenge, madness and rampant philosophizing. 

ACT (a community theatre) mainstay Terry Pratt likes the play, too, though he modified it somewhat while directing ACT's late summer production of the show in Robert Cotton Park, ACT's fourth Shakespeare play in this venue. Pratt's revision trims about ten thousand words off the text, jettisons various secondary characters and trims the cast down to a mere eight actors, some playing multiple parts. 

This textual crash diet works surprisingly well, overall. It slashes the running time from around four hours to under three hours, for one thing, and while there are deleted elements I miss—like the play's spooky opening scene, or the whole plot thread about rival monarch Fortinbras—what remains flows well enough that viewers new to the play won't notice any omissions, preserving the story's essential core. 

Noah Nazim makes a memorable ACT debut as Hamlet. He's a bit overwrought at times, even by the standards of the part—his opening scene in particular feels a bit too intense so early in the story, before tensions have escalated all that much for either the characters or the audience by comparison to what's coming—but he shows plenty of range, energy and charm over the course of his marathon role, and is often fascinating to watch.  

Richard Haines and Catherine MacDonald are both solid as dysfunctional monarchs Claudius & Gertrude, though Haines feels somewhat flat as the previous king's ghost, not so much ethereal as leaden. Gordon Cobb works well as royal advisor/ultimate windbag Polonius, all the funnier thanks to the baffled, irritated reactions he elicits from cast members like Haines and MacDonald, unspoken or otherwise—Pratt's cast are all good listeners, actively engaged in the action even when they are not the focus of it. 

Clark's Horatio, metadramatically doubling as an interactive guide for the park audience, is effective in both roles and is a thoughtful, likeable presence. Good overall as Hamlet's ill-fated ladylove Ophelia, Lindsay Gillis is downright great in her madness scene, made all the more eerily, alluringly sad by her lovely singing voice. 

But my favourites in the company are Kier Malone and Sara McCarthy, who play four roles apiece and make every one of those parts distinctive and entertaining. Malone, for instance, brings passionate emotion and impressive physical agility to the part of Claudius pawn Laertes, teaming with Nazim for some of PEI's best theatrical swordplay in ages; and McCarthy, great fun in all her roles, is the earthiest (sorry), funniest Gravedigger I've ever seen. 

As he did with 2012's MacBeth, director Pratt uses the park's widely varying locales to great advantage with scenes ranging from fields to woods to beaches and back again, adding plenty of visual variety and atmosphere. There are even nifty bonus cameo scenes where you can see characters engaged in bits of business off to the side while the audience troops from one location to the next. All told, Pratt's slimmed-down Hamlet is an inventive, entertaining variation on the original. 

Improvised Nonsense

Popalopalots

Review by Sean McQuaid 

Your recidivist reviewer has covered the Popalopalots improv troupe a few times already over the years, so on doing it again I faced a haunting question: how can I do it differently this time?  

That's when it hit me: improv reviewing! Ordinarily I go through multiple drafts of any given article, revising and trimming and editing and polishing my assorted ravings ad nauseam until something vaguely readable emerges from the textual mire. 

But this time, in the spirit of improv, I'll just type whatever malarkey pops into my head within a tightly limited time span—let's say half an hour—and then we're all stuck with whatever nonsense leaked out of my brain during those fateful thirty minutes. 

Sounds good? Bad? Terrifying? Door number three, says I, but it's too late for doubts now—the clock is literally ticking as I type this, so let the uncensored, unfiltered, possibly unfortunate reviewing commence....now! 

Show funny. Me laugh lots. Cameron very funny, possibly some kind of comic genius. Graham very funny, definitely some sort of comic genius. Alicia very funny, sing real nice. Jordan very funny, sing good too. Rob very funny, kind of passive aggressive. Sometimes not so passive. Getting more good at moderating thing, too. Ben funny but laughs at everything a lot, like, more than audience does, and audience laughs quite a bit. Dylan funny, more confident than before. Kelly funny, little too quiet sometimes. Show good. Lots of laughs for little money. The end. 

Or not, since apparently that spurt of deathless caveman prose only took an even seven minutes. Huh. Maybe I've been over-thinking this whole reviewing racket all these years? May as well run out the clock for the remaining 20–odd minutes by expanding on some of this, I guess...

Most of these Popalopalots are pretty familiar by now. Fearless leader Rob MacDonald and his comedic soulmate Graham Putnam, collaborators on shows like Enemies and Sketch-22, formed their improv troupe in 2011 with several other foolhardy local personalities, notably comic book merchant Dylan Miller. 

MacDonald, Putnam and Miller have all stuck around since then, and are much the same as before: Putnam remains a bizarre comic genius, MacDonald remains the endearingly awkward ringleader (though he's refined his moderation skills somewhat over time), and Miller has gotten lots more confident and verbally resourceful after years of practice, stronger each season. 

A ton of new talent joined them in 2012, young thespians such as Jordan Cameron, Benton Hartley and Cameron MacDonald. All three of them lingered, and all benefited the troupe in various ways: musical talent (Cameron), well-rounded theatrical skills (Hartley) and another shot of uncut comedic weirdness (MacDonald) on a par with Putnam. 

The two Camerons have become especially solid improv performers, and while Rob MacDonald's long career boasts plenty of accomplishments, I'd bet his son Cameron's evolution into such a gifted comedic collaborator is one of Rob's proudest career highlights. 

New to me in this context are recent recruits Altass and Casely. An accomplished stage manager and costume designer, Casely is a likeable presence but a bit too quiet and tentative by times—though Miller started out much the same way, so she may yet evolve as she settles into the company. Altass is a stronger rookie addition: fearless, funny, quick on her feet, and her fine singing voice is a nice bonus for the troupe's musical improv games. 

As noted, the group's moderation has gotten commendably tighter, and the "Top Pop" competition for the night's top performer adds an element of comedic suspense and a narrative through line of sorts to the proceedings. 

The online stopwatch says my time has run out, so thus endeth my foray into spontaneous guerilla reviewing. Will I ever do anything like this again? Will any of this make sense to me upon re-reading? Will I actually get paid for this? Quite possibly yes. Weep for our civilization, gentle readers...

Highlight of the season

The Affections of May

Review by Sean McQuaid 

Years ago, your weather-beaten wordsmith was lunching with a visiting grad school chum in downtown Charlottetown. I exchanged greetings with various friends and acquaintances in the street en route, then did the same with other familiar folk inside the restaurant. My increasingly incredulous dining companion eventually asked me: “What are you, the mayor or something?”

It’s all part of the joys of small-town living, I explained, where everybody knows everybody. Folks “from away” might find this charming and amusing or baffling and unsettling, depending on their perspective—and both perspectives are on display in The Affections of May, Canadian playwright Norm Foster’s oft-produced romantic comedy, newly remounted at the Harbourfront Theatre in Summerside.

Quirkily sunny May Henning (played here by Marlene Handrahan) and her self-absorbed spouse Brian (Robert Clarke) give up good jobs in the big city to open a bed-and-breakfast in small-town Grogan’s Cove, trying to resuscitate their moribund marriage. May loves their new life but Brian hates it, callously deserting May for his old job and an old flame back in the city. The suddenly single May attracts two rival suitors: socially awkward banker Hank (Gord Gammie) and hard-drinking, hard-luck handyman Quinn (Cameron MacDuffee).

Much of what happens next is predictable in terms of who May ends up with and how, but there’s chuckles aplenty to be had along the way. Foster’s funny, inventive script builds a world of amusing small-town eccentrics pleasantly reminiscent of Newhart, albeit with a dark underbelly that fuels some of the play’s more dramatic moments as the story develops.

Foster treats all his characters with some measure of respect or affection or both, making them more relatable. Even the appallingly selfish Brian is believable and understandable in terms of making a case for how and why he acts the way does, and all three corners of the love triangle spawned by his departure are sympathetic in their own way.

Director Catherine O’Brien’s solid production has much to recommend it—fun and familiar music choices, artfully composed blocking, designer David Antscheri’s handsomely convincing set, and most especially the cast: the same fantastic quartet featured in The 39 Steps also star in this show, and there’s a really smooth chemistry and comic timing between them. They all play their May parts well, especially Gammie. 

Gammie’s line delivery and body language make Hank a memorably distinctive, wincingly awkward, winningly sympathetic and often hilarious presence, sometimes without even saying a word. His tortured attempt at small talk with Clarke’s Brian, for instance, is a priceless slow-motion train wreck, and it helps make Harbourfront’s Affections of May a comedic highlight of the summer.

Events Calendar

September 2018
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Some Upcoming Events

Dancing with the Stars

Hospice PEI’s event celebrates 7th year October 20
Murphy Community Centre October 20, 2018  [ ... ]

Musical theatre blues

On the Road with Dutch Mason starring John Connolly Select dates to September 22
The Mack The “Pr [ ... ]

Support the Girls

Until September 22
City Cinema 14A, coarse language, nudity
Dir: Andrew Bujalski, US, 90 min. Regina  [ ... ]

Recent News & Articles

Drawing the line

Profile: Sandy Carruthers by Jane Ledwell Retired for a year now after twenty-five years teaching  [ ... ]

Free transportation at Cloggeroo

The provincial government will sponsor free transportation at this year’s Cloggeroo festival to he [ ... ]

Charlottetown’s Historic Squares exhibit...

The City of Charlottetown Planning and Heritage Department has created an exhibit exploring the hist [ ... ]