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ACT (a community theatre) production of Eliza Jane Wilson’s play

Review by Carol Little

Cast of Strike at Putney Church
.In celebration of the anniversary of Island author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s birthday, ACT (a community theatre) opened its 2005-2006 season at the Arts Guild in Charlottetown with The Strike at Putney Church, which ran for seven performances in November. The play, written by Charlottetown resident Eliza Jane Wilson, is based on the short story “The Strike at Putney” by L.M. Montgomery.

The play was directed by Paul Whelan, who was cast as the minister of Putney Church, Daniel Sinclair, in the first production of the play in 1989. Since then, the play has been staged at a number of different Maritime theatres and was featured on the Confederation Center Main Stage in the 1991 Charlottetown Festival.

The performance at the Arts Guild reflected a high calibre of production. The actors played off each other with expert timing and chemistry, seamlessly drawing the audience into the story with the comedic peculiarities of the characters.

The Strike at Putney Church is a comedy portraying small town island life in the 1920’s. The upright, moralistic community of Putney is scandalized when the elders deny a famous female missionary the opportunity to speak at the church, quoting the authoritarian biblical words of St. Paul, “Let your women keep silence in the churches for they are commanded to be under obedience” in their defense. The women, who have already arranged for the missionary’s visit, see no conflict with “a good Christian woman” who represents God in her work speaking from the pulpit at Putney Church. When the male elders maintain their firm opposition to the matter, the women retaliate by organizing a general strike, aimed to promote equality and demonstrate the importance of women in the church, by suspending all female participation and duties related to the church, including singing, organ playing, cleaning and the organizing of fund raisers.

Although the strike is initially seen as senseless female “troublemaking,” it doesn’t take the men long to feel the ill effects of a church void of female presence. The men’s stance is further weakened when it is revealed that the outspoken leader of the opposition Andrew McKittrick (Corin McFadden), has underhandedly convinced reluctant Miss Evelyn Kirby (Kim Johnston), who is the Secretary Treasurer of the Women’s Auxiliary, to secretly withdraw funds from the foreign auxiliary bank account to supplement the Church’s waning income in light of the women’s strike. Along with the unfolding of McKittrick’s shady personal history, the men soon rush to put things right.

In the end, an agreement is reached, a villain is found out, and honour, respectability and peace are restored to the town of Putney and its church. The men “learn to never take women for granted,” for as the young Minister (Adam Gauthier) says, “Women are Putney Church.”

Played to an intimate, packed house at the Arts Guild with simple, yet convincing and effective sets, complete with the author in attendance on November 18th, The Strike at Putney Church received warm applause and laughter throughout the evening.

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