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Review by Norah Pendergast

Youthful desire for originality is something that Club Red Productions brings to the Charlottetown theatre scene. Co-founders Jenna MacMillan and Willie Beck seek scripts with intense subject matter, and “existential stuff” that has not yet been presented on an Island stage. Joe Apart, their second production, by local playwright Michael Walker, dealt with the issue of suicide. In Tape, a psychodrama written by Stephen Belber, characters deal with issues such as rape, drug addiction, and perception. Their fourth effort, Tape, directed by MacMillan and produced by Beck, ran in August at the Arts Guild. It was provocative, mature and captivating.

The play’s three characters, Amy, (Jenna MacMillian), Jon (Ben Rayner) and Vince (Chris Doiron) are reunited six years after their high school graduation and a party which ended with a sexual assault. As the audience becomes familiar with the characters and the main conflict, the dialogue demonstrates how ego can influence one’s perception, especially in hindsight. The character’s opinions provide a filter lens from behind which they view reality.

Tape is superbly acted by Doiron, Rayner, and MacMillian. Chris Doiron plays Vince, a potentially violent coke addict who, as he gets older, is losing control of his life. Six years after high school enough time has elapsed for the characters to reflect on each other’s real world accomplishments. To the audience Vince is a classic druggy loser, but soon he is replaced in his villain role by Jon, a documentary film maker who had formerly held the moral high ground. The ironic twist in the plot proves how selectively people present themselves. The actors’ youth and great skill increase the entertainment value of this show.

Vince’s coke addiction is like a prop, always visible behind the main action. His volatile personality, and half-clothed, sculpted physique, are key elements creating the spell-binding effect of the play. Sober and flustered, Jon counters Vince well, as he is urged to measure his maturity and apologize to Amy. Tape illustrates that actions guised as benevolent are often self-serving.

Willie and Jenna are addicted to the feeling of accomplishment which follows the step-by-step process of producing and directing plays. And Charlottetown is lucky that the Club Red prefers a familiar audience rather than seeking greater exposure in the Toronto or Montreal theatre scenes. Viewing Tape was a thoroughly satisfying experience.

Anne Grows Up

Anne & Gilbert

Review by Norah Pendergast

Anticipation builds as the audience of Anne & Gilbert fills the Victoria Playhouse. With the hour drawing near cellist, Julia McLean and violinist, Mark Haines tune together. One can hear the chorus warming up through the walls of the restored, historic theatre. What excitement will Anne, Gilbert, and all the familiar characters find for themselves? Will the small army of local and imported contributors deliver? Will Anne & Gilbert live up to the hype? It’s a foreign and exciting feeling to enter a show wondering what Anne will be like, and what fate has in store for her.

Anne has grown into a woman, and though she is the last to know, she’s in love. Anne & Gilbert, the most anticipated play in Prince Edward Island this summer, does not disappoint. It is funny, charming, and musically and visually sensational. Writers, Jeff Hochauser, Nancy White, and Bob Johnstone, director and choreographer Duncan McIntosh, and producer Campbell Webster have succeeded in grand fashion. Refreshingly modern, Anne & Gilbert is magically artistic, and oh so romantic!

Set in the village of Avonlea and at Redmond campus in Halifax, Anne & Gilbert makes many references to the Maritimes and Prince Edward Island. The actors, set, and action provide a great reflection of our traditional culture. Future productions of Anne & Gilbert could take this representation of our culture to Canada and the world.

The simple white set provides the opportunity for much artistry on the part of the characters who move the pieces, making set changes part of the action. Carpenter Ron Quesnel has built the illusion of rural Victorian architecture, designed by John C. Dunning. The unassuming backdrop allows the play to transport the audience from school house to Green Gables, to Redmond, and back to Avonlea. The lighting is excellent and the props are perfect.

Twenty-one scenes are arranged around twenty-eight songs. The lyrics and music are wonderful. Musical Director, Lisa St. Clair oversaw the first delivery of many future classics, songs like, “Your Island through and through,” during which the youthful cast members join in traditional dance, and “Our Duty,” in which Marilla and Rachel Lind profess their Presbyterian motivation.

The sung delivery of the majority of verbal exchange allows the actors emotional command over the audience. The song “Hot House Flower” explains,symbolically, a very pivotal episode in the play, when Anne is forced to be true to herself. Dances and blocking are masterfully choreographed with the music. This enhances scenes such as one where school teacher, Anne, theatrically gives Paul Irving his first whipping, and the chase of the boys after Philippa Gordon during the song “Seesaw Girl.” Actors use the entire theatre space, entering and exiting via the main door, and participating in action from the theatre isles.

The costumes, designed by Phillip Clarkson, are dazzling, and include detailed Victorian suits and gowns, created with fine and diverse textiles. Dresser, Marilyn Cullen had her work cut out for her. The cast’s wardrobe is vast, including reproductions of Victorian bathing suits, children’s clothes, daily wear, ball gowns, a wedding dress, men’s suits, waiter’s uniforms, and even a very rare artifact, the Victorian maternity dress. The cast is physically diverse, from tall and strapping John Connolly as Moody MacPherson to little Brandon Banks as Paul Irving. The most exciting scenes are when the villagers fill the stage to sing and dance in delightful unison.

Comedic elements are provided by Pam Stevenson as Rachel Lind, Natalie Sullivan as Josie Pye, and Maria Campbell as Philippa Gordon. Laura Smith plays a dignified Marilla, a good companion to Stevenson as the gossipy Ms. Lind. One particularly funny scene finds Gilbert at the beach on his day off. Josie Pye has maintained her childhood interest in him and traps him in the sea after expressing her unladylike desires. Gilbert resists her, and every other feminine advance, with the conviction that he’ll either have Anne or bachelorhood.

Gilbert demonstrates his strong character by holding down many menial jobs while working towards his goal of becoming a medical doctor. He is the most sought after man in Avonlea and at Redmond University. Peter Deiwick is excellent as Gilbert, confident and handsome, the audience roots for him as he demonstrates time and again his loyalty to Anne. Marla McLean is an extremely loveable Anne, spunky and moralistic. Hearts melt and tears flow while McLean, alone on stage, delivers the powerful and surprising climax.

Anne’s parents speak to her from the grave in the form of letters retrieved from her birthplace by Gilbert. The letters express their love for each other and for her. The Shirleys implore their daughter to accept and cherish true love. Anne finds the strength to accept Gilbert as her life partner. Finally, Anne has role models to provide a necessary example of romantic love.

Lucky are those who have had the opportunity to witness the historic first production of Anne & Gilbert at the beautiful Victoria Playhouse. Lucy Maud Montgomery would be proud of this addition to her legacy. The play has recharged our weary icon, and will surely become a classic.

Courthouse Jesters

The Ticket

Review by Norah Pendergast

Over the years since its construction in the summer of 1872, the St. Peter’s Courthouse Theatre has been the seat of such community institutions as law and education. In modern times it serves the purpose of a cultural center. The building has been beautifully restored and functions as a museum during the day, and on hot summer nights you can watch the sun go down over St. Peters Bay before entering to view community theatre—like Michael Pendergast’s latest play, The Ticket, which ran Tuesdays in July and August.

Quaint touches, like an old fashioned string-pulled curtain, and a man playing a female role, add authenticity to the historic experience. The Ticket was written specifically for the Courthouse Theatre, and the three character cast is played by local actors. Colloquial accents and rhetoric, and local references colour the funny dialogue.

The Court Jesters, formed three years ago, are an acting troupe exclusive to the St. Peter’s Courthouse Theatre. The Jesters originally comprised the cast of Michael Pendergast’s first play, Fiddle Case. This summer the troupe’s members include Adam MacIsaac, in the role of Mac, Jonah Anderson, as Velma, and April MacCormack and Sheryll O’Hanley who shared the role of Flo.

In the comedy a romantically unsatisfied wife puts her husband on a love regimen prescribed by a program which she ordered online. The pleasure which Flo derives from the romantic gestures she squeezes from her grumpy old husband demonstrate that keeping a woman satisfied in a relationship takes but the slightest of efforts.

As part of the prescription Mac is forced to sacrifice his favorite pastime—scratching lotto tickets. On the sly, Mac scratched a winner and hid it in an urn which held his mother-in-law’s ashes. When his arch enemy, Flo’s sister Velma, relocates the ashes the fun begins with much grumpiness and hilarious, inexplicable behavior from Mac as he carefully seeks a favour from Velma.

Viewing The Ticket at the St. Peters Courthouse was a heartwarming activity. Hopefully the Court Jesters and Michael Pendergast (my cousin) will return to the stage in St. Peters next summer for a fourth funny production.

Home for the Holidays

4 of a Kind

Review by Norah Pendergast

The play, 4 of a Kind, has a great premise which many people can relate to: strangers who car-pool home from university for the holidays. Sounds innocent enough. Throw in some crazy personalities, and the little VW beetle takes a detour towards insanity. Written by nineteen-year-old St. Peters native, Jonah Anderson, 4 of a Kind was brought to life by five youthful actors at the St.Peters Courthouse Theatre this summer.

Adam MacIsaac unleashes great physical comedy in the role of “Dave,” a nerdy germophobe. Jonah Anderson plays “Tim,” a Hawaiian shirt clad narcoleptic, who quickly finds himself a new enemy in “John,” a hot-tempered beef-cake, played by Justin MacDonald. The group of car-poolers is made complete by the beautiful and coveted car-owner, “Brittany,” played by Haley Thompson. The bickering commences shortly after introductions are made. Act One is complete when Brittany’s patience run out and she abandons the motley crew on the road side, left to their own devices.

In Act Two, the boys are picked up by an eccentric trucker, played by Ben MacInnis. The trucker and nerdy Dave happen to have the same flamboyant taste in music. A hilarious sing-along ensues to the chagrin of Tim and John and to the delight of the almost full house.

Jonah Anderson is an accomplished writer, he has written dinner theatres and plays, two of which have been previously produced at the Courthouse Theatre. Demonstrating his creative tenacity, Jonah was motivated to improve 4 of a Kind after it was rejected from a festival of original plays that was held at his Nova Scotia university. He added a second act and extra eccentricity to the personalities of the characters. His efforts have resulted in a hilarious success.

Jonah will attend musical theatre performance school in Ontario this year. He has the ultimate goal of becoming a film actor, with a stop in New York City along the way to make an appearance in Saturday Night Live. If Jonah actually does succeed in making it to the big time—say Emmy or Oscar (there is no reason to think that he won’t), it will be an exciting night for the community of St. Peters Bay.

Honest Love


Review by Norah Pendergast

A new play, Lights, written and directed by Alix MacLean, tells the story of a Charlottetown girl who re-learns the facts of life when she moves to a metropolis for university. Toronto offers diverse developmental influences to Mickey, the impressionable young heroine.

“Micheala” (Mickey) and “Ben” are long time best friends who make the milestone move together. The play depicts the course of Mickey’s first year of university. Dawn Doiron stars in the role of “Mickey,” and Ian Dunsford is “Ben.” Neighbors, “Jodi” and “Leila,” are played by Diana Love and Laura Pineau. The cast of main characters is completed by Colin Moore as “Simon,” a Frenchman who finds his joie de vivre at the bottom of wine bottles.

When Ben confesses his love for her, Mickey panics and “comes out” to avoid rejecting him. In her efforts at damage control, Mickey convinces Jodi, a true lesbian, to pretend to be her girlfriend. The charade is maintained for three months, while unbeknownst to the loveable Mickey, Jodi falls for her. Mickey’s lie gains momentum until it explodes. Mistakes result in lessons which bring new found maturity. Upon learning that honesty is best, and that “the real world is nothing but a fairytale that parents tell their kids,” Mickey is true to herself and finds peace.

A memorable aspect of Lights, which is two hours long, was the performance of nine songs by Diana Love and Ian Dunsford. The characters frequent a local open mic, where they bare their souls acoustically. Some of the play’s most powerful moments take place during these songs, borrowed from local and international song-writers. Diana Love has a wonderful voice, and it is excellent when she and Ian Dunsford play and sing together. David Bowie has a reoccurring presence and sets the mood when his picture is the first image presented to the audience. Emotions conveyed by the actors through their songs enhance the human element in this story of a twisted, bi-sexual love triangle.

After her freshman year Mickey decides to switch her major to women’s studies. Perhaps she is subconsciously influenced by post-structuralist feminist theory when the time comes to follow her heart. The play is spiced with some daringly erotic scenes, which in the context of the story are innocent enough, but when performed by attractive, nubile girls in front of an audience, contribute to the “mature subject matter” warning. The characters’ celebration of substance abuse also illustrates the experimental perspective of college freshmen.

Lights is an intelligent play rooted in Charlottetown. The set is great, and the actors portray their characters well. Lights is a detailed expression of youthful femininity in this millennium. The production efforts have resulted in an artistic representation of an important group—young lovers who transcend traditional gender ideals.

A !@#$% Riot!


Review by Norah Pendergast

Outrageously satirical and energetically thrilling, from commencement to completion the cast of Sketch 22 forcefully throws humorous and shocking antics at its audience. With season two of Sketch 22 well under way, the comedians can rest assured that expectations based on last year’s success are not disappointed. The show is as memorable and hilarious as any show, any time, anywhere.

The writers prove the depth of their creativity by bravely delivering all new material, and no repeat characters. Newscaster Stone Phillips, lesbian Debbie Gaudet, and Hatrick from Tignish, personify familiar clichés. This technique allows the cast to replace the dialogue necessary for character development with jibes, punch lines, and observations, leaving spectators spent and sore from the physical exertion of laughing.

Comedians Rob MacDonald, Graham Putnam, Josh Weale, Andrew Sprague, and Dennis Trainor, collaborated on writing the dynamic script. According to Rob MacDonald, who wrote most of this year’s presentation, “Seeing Sketch 22 is like going on a bus tour of the Island. Except that instead of going the scenic route, it’s like taking the red dirt road less traveled.” Sketch 22 provides a rebellious antithesis to the rustic rural Island which is presented for the lucrative consumption of tourists.

Nay-sayers may complain that Sketch-22 perpetuates negative stereotypes, and contains too much swearing. Audience: abandon your delusive desire for the politically correct and embrace the instinctual phenomenon which is the sense of humor! The production shamelessly mocks those nauseating individuals who dare to dictate truth and evil. With its off-color humor Sketch 22 succeeds in leaping beyond the boundaries of social acceptability while maintaining moral integrity, therein lies its true brilliance.

Producer Jason Rogerson explains, “While I can’t promise that you’ll like it... I can guarantee this. You will be thrilled, sometimes you will be shocked, but most of all, you will be enormously entertained.” It’s true, Rob MacDonald, Graham Putnam, and Josh Weale stand out as fiercely talented comedians who are able to don absurd personas for the delight of spectators.

Excellent costumes and exquisite physical comedy add a visual dimension to the hilarity of Sketch 22. The videos shown at moments of set changes orchestrated by stage manager, Ghislaine O’Hanley, hold even the shortest attention spans to the comedian’s foolishness. For more information, and a good laugh, check out the Sketch 22 website at

Art is the consciousness of a society, and Sketch 22 is a by product of life on P.E.I. The entire cast and crew are natives of Prince Edward Island. Their ability to poke fun at their home demonstrates their proud acceptance of it. Despite (or perhaps because of) gratuitous obscenities in the name of satire, Sketch 22 is a quality production of local talent that will appeal to open and inquisitive minds.

An Immortal

A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline

Review by Norah Pendergast

The musical tribute, A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline, has been produced over one hundred times for appreciative audiences throughout North America. Here in Charlottetown, it has been the MacKenzie Theatre’s most successful production ever. The show ran this spring from May 26th until June 18th.

A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline, written by Canadian Dean Regan in 1991, has very rich subject matter, a skill fully arranged script, and an excellent cast. Audience members are transported back in time to relive the rags to riches story of Virginia Hensley, the down-home girl with a soulful voice, who patiently and resolutely followed her dream of becoming a regular on the “Grand Ole Opry.” Patsy Cline spent ten years in the business before she made it big with her hit, “Walkin’ After Midnight.” After a brief brush with stardom came that fateful night in 1963 when she was immortalised in a plane crash. A country music legend, Patsy Cline’s broad fan base has grown exponentially since her premature death.

Marlane O’Brien has played “Patsy” in 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, and again in 2005. O’Brien succeeds in the very demanding role, flawlessly delivering the twenty-two song soundtrack, which includes favourites like “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “Leavin’ On Your Mind,” “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” “Back in Baby’s Arms,” “I Fall To Pieces,” and “Always.” Together, O’Brien and her back up band offer spectators the chance to experience what seems like a bona fide Patsy Cline concert in the timeless, intimate setting of MacKenzie Theatre.

Director and costume designer, Wade Lynch plays opposite O’Brien in the role of “The Little Big Man.” Through multiple Masters of Ceremonies at different locations across America, Lynch interactively keeps the audience laughing and propels the sequence of Patsy’s life. The audience is ushered from Cline’s humble beginnings at a Winchester Virginia radio station, to Nashville, to Vegas, and finally, at the zenith of her career, to Carnegie Hall in New York City.

The play is also rare opportunity to see a very accurate portrayal of a 1950s classic country band. “The Melody Playboys,” are played by Dale DesRoches, Chas Guay, Chris Corrigan, and Brad Fremlin. Together they accompany O’Brien’s powerful voice with impressive instrumentals and harmonic back up vocals.

A creative set, effective lighting, and fabulous costumes help round out the memorable experience of A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline. The show is very well researched, with the sensation of time transport authenticated by snippets of contemporary history in politics and sports, and even advertisements hilariously performed by Lynch and the “Playboys.” Spectators, who are included as the WINC radio station’s studio audience, are taught that in the 1950s Sun Records revolutionized the genre of country music when they started assigning hesitant traditional musicians, like Patsy, songs which would also be hits on the pop charts.

The show’s production advisor, Charlie Dick married Patsy Cline in 1957 and was left with two young daughters when she died. Dick has helped to make A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline a true celebration of Patsy Cline’s musical life. The Confederation Centre has struck country gold with the production, it’s great cast and excellent, timeless music.

Leading Lights

Meet the stars of Anne and Gilbert

by Norah Pendergast

Peter Deiwick and Marla McLean in VictoriaJust before starting a day of rehearsal in Victoria by the Sea with the cast of Anne and Gilbert, Marla McLean reflected on her motivation. “I know that acting is my calling because I can’t imagine doing anything else. If you are in theatre and can imagine doing anything else, then, when things get tough, you will.” Marla, who will play “Anne,” was inspired to become a performer by the movie Fame. She entered professional theatre at twenty years of age, and four years later moved to Toronto after being offered a role in the Toronto Company’s production of Mama Mia.

Marla modestly credits her career to good directors and experienced actors who offered guidance and opportunities. Her talent and hard work are undoubtedly the other ingredients in her recipe of success. McLean was awarded the Robert Merrit award in the Atlantic Film Festival for her role as the lead in, Helen Keller and the Miracle Worker.

Marla was first introduced to Anne and Gilbert after working with the show’s director and choreographer, Duncan McIntosh in a Theatre New Brunswick production last Christmas. A native of Nova Scotia, Marla spent every summer of her childhood visiting family in Charlottetown. Familiarity with Anne’s story and character has allowed her to slip easily into her latest role. Marla referred to Montgomery’s books in preparation and applauds writers, Jeff Hochhauser, Nancy White, and Bob Johnstone. “The beautiful script allows Anne’s personality to come out with out losing any of the colour she had as a child….”

Marla’s boyfriend is working with her in Anne and Gilbert. He will play the role of “Roy,” Anne’s millionaire love interest. Marla is eager to guide him through her favourite sights on Prince Edward Island, specifically the Old Home Week Parade, and Rainbow Valley.

In the future Marla plans on taking time off to work in film. However, because of the excitement of performing in front of a live audience, she finds it impossible to resist the interesting theatrical opportunities.

It is certain that Anne and Gilbert lead, Peter Deiwick is well-qualified, as this summer will be the fourth time that he has played “Gilbert Blythe.” Coincidentally, the first role that this Sheridan educated actor ever played was that of Anne’s childhood rival in his grade four class production of Anne of Green Gables. Deiwick’s intelligence and charisma make him a natural choice for the well known character. It was obvious to Bob Johnstone, writer of Anne and Gilbert, and Peter’s former high school teacher. He called Peter to read at the play’s workshops in New York City.

Peter had recently completed a run as “Sky” in the Royal Alexandra Theater’s production of Mama Mia. He felt limited creatively by the exhaustive schedule and the frequency of Mama Mia productions. Disenchanted with musical theater, Peter decided to focus on writing original music for his Toronto based rock band, Chelsea’s Ghost, named for the Chelsea hotel. Inclined both instrumentally and vocally, Peter explains that he has evolved towards separating the pursuits of music and theater in his life.

Peter explains, “Work shopping Anne and Gilbert brought back a love of musical theater which had waned after my experience as one of a long list of ‘Skys’.” It was during the intense New York City workshops that the preliminary script and music, written by Johnstone, Nancy White, and Jeff Hochhauser, developed into the much anticipated romantic comedy. For Deiwick, participating in the initial creative process of a brand new play redeemed musical theater’s fault of predictability. A musician and composer himself, Peter admits that the play’s music and lyrics are some of the greatest he’s ever heard.

Though he has already played “Gilbert” in his professional career, Peter admits that he could not fully relate to the nuances of Gilbert’s character until he arrived in the Avonlea-like village of Victoria. “People here are so friendly, I met all my neighbors within four days of arriving.” Newly inspired, and armed with a stellar script, Peter Deiwick promises to provide spectators with a novel representation of Gilbert Blythe.

Events Calendar

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Some Upcoming Events

The Shack Wacky Review

With Patrick Ledwell and Mark Haines  February 2
PEI Brewing Co Join comedian Patrick Ledwell  [ ... ]

Gadfly crew

Urban roots dance January 31
Homburg Theatre Gadfly is an eclectic urban dance crew that is steppin [ ... ]

Debussy Préludes

St. Paul’s Church
January 18 Pianist Sarah Hagen will perform Debussy’s first book of Préludes  [ ... ]

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Distinguished alumni

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