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The Washing Machine

Review by Kumari Campbell

Garden variety village theatre is alive and well in St. Peters Bay this summer. The original village courthouse, built in 1874 and in use for local court proceedings until the late 1960s, has been beautifully restored as a community theatre and museum. In its second year of operation, the theatre is concentrating on promoting local entertainment. To that end, the 2004 season is showcasing a wide assortment of acts, both musical and theatrical, produced by local residents.

One such production is The Washing Machine, a short, two-act play written by Mike Pendergast, more familiar to Island audiences as an accordion player. But Pendergast has several play-writing credits, one of which, The Fiddle Case was written for the opening season of the St. Peters Court House Theatre last year.

Using typically rural themes such as moonshine, gossipy neighbours, and party-line phones, The Washing Machine presents a droll, if predictable, sequence of events triggered by repeated misunderstandings among the play’s four characters. In the end, all is cleared up, everyone gets what they want and lives happily ever after.

A group of young community actors, appropriately named the Court Jesters, present the play once a week, over a six-week period in July and August. Reminiscent of the country school play of an era long past, complete with the sluggish curtain that doesn’t always quite meet in the centre, the play is a big hit with local audiences. Professional or world-class theatre this is not. Neither does it pretend to be. More importantly, it provides an evening of affordable entertainment for local residents and vacationers, in their own community. The themes that The Washing Machine deals with are familiar motifs of rural life that every man and woman in the audience can all too easily identify with. Their comfort level with the material is abundantly clear as they howl with laughter at the antics on stage, and chuckle uncontrollably in anticipation of the next scene.

To this critical viewer, the funniest line of the evening was delivered by the slow-talking (and thinking) village “handy”-man (a.k.a. village fool, the play would have us believe), when he poked his head through the curtain midway through the performance, to announce, “What’re y’all sitting here waiting fer? Didn’t y’know it’s intermission?” Never mind. If you’re in the mood for a few belly laughs, and would like to get a taste of an old time country play, go down to the St. Peters Courthouse Theatre. Don’t be too critical. And, remember, you will be helping support a very valuable community initiative in eastern Kings County.

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