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PEI Love Story

Review by Chris McGarry

The lighthearted, comedic-drama P.E.I. Love Story made its debut in front of a large audience at the St. Peters Courthouse Theatre on July 6. P.E.I. Love Story, the premiere play by the Charlottetown-based theatre company Manne Productions, follows a couple of days in the lives of four lifelong friends—Andrew (Adam MacGregor), Karen (Alicia Altass), Mark (Shawn Arsenault) and Ellie (Sherri-Lee Darrach)—as they cope with the ups and downs of romantic relationships.

Andrew and Karen, who were married rather young, don’t exactly have the perfect marriage. She is frustrated, desperately wants to start a family and cannot stand Andrew’s immature ways; he’s more interested in playing video games than spending time with her. Their matrimonial existence is empty and sexless. Karen sees Andrew more as a “glorified roommate” than as a spouse.

While Andrew and Karen are struggling through a calamitous marriage, their friends Ellie and Mark are living quite fulfilling lives as singles. Mark has a rewarding career as a youth counsellor and Ellie, a writer, is currently working on a book about the trials and tribulations of relationships on PEI, which paradoxically is to be titled P.E.I. Love Story.

What Mark and Ellie have in common is that they both have tremendous difficulty finding the right people to have good relationships with. Ellie is fed-up with the bar scene and Mark refuses to invest a lot of time into women who are not serious.

One evening, Andrew and Karen decide to invite their friends over for a dinner party where they reminisce about their university days. After a while though, things take a turn for the worse when Mark and Karen, who had indulged in a brief fling years earlier, feel that they still have chemistry between them.

As to be expected, this causes animosity among the members of the group, who refuse to talk to each other for about a day. Through feelings of anger, sadness and eventual happiness, the friends learn to work out their issues in time for the play to close with a thoroughly joyous, satisfying ending that was worthy of a thunderous standing applause by the members of the audience.

P.E.I. Love Story doesn’t purport to be a romantic love story in the traditional sense but is instead a realistic tale of relationship challenges that the average person can relate to. What makes the production so unique is its emphasis on Island culture.

Throughout the play, there are references (often done quite comically) to PEI place names (Clinton, Stanhope) and famous institutions such as “Anne of Green Gables” and the now-closed Rainbow Valley.

In what is probably the most famous PEI stereotype, Andrew, a native of Toronto, is funnily reminded by his wife that he will never be a true “Islander.” Interspersed between the well-acted scenes are musical numbers in which the actors played stirring acoustic versions of songs by well-known artists such as Gene MacLellan, Sarah MacLachlin and Adele.

Although all of the performers excelled in their roles, it was Alicia Atlass, as the distraught wife, who shone the most.

P.E.I. Love Story was written by Alicia Altass and directed by Adam MacGregor. It plays every Friday at the St. Peters Courthouse Theatre until August 10 and from August 29 to September 1 at the Victoria Playhouse.

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