Review by Sean McQuaid
Performed & Written by
Sherri-Lee Pike (Stephanie)
Alison Hart (also script editor)
Brandon Roy (voice-overs/music director/voice coach), Adam MacGregor (lead guitarist)
Repeatedly heartbroken romantic Stephanie reflects on life in general and her love life in particular as she prepares to celebrate her 40th birthday. Playwright/star Pike developed the play after consulting a focus group of friends about their own real-life experiences circa age 40.
More or less the one-woman show it's billed as, Ht40 features only Pike on stage, though offstage collaborators contribute extensive voice-over work (much of it in dialogue with Pike) and lead guitar for Pike's musical numbers as she alternately chats and sings her way through assorted anecdotes and life lessons. McGregor adds a lot with his versatile, oft-entertaining voice work, though his child roles work a bit less well than his adult bits.
The undisputed, undiluted star of this show, Pike–as–performer is also the best thing about the play: lively, funny, genuine, playful and charming, she is entertainingly watchable and likable throughout. She exudes the incandescent positive energy of an older Anne of Green Gables, making it both appropriate and slightly surreal that portions of the Guild’s Anne & Gilbert set remain visible during Pike’s show.
The anecdotal/anthology format almost inevitably means some segments work better than others, and portions of the show feel repetitive in terms of hitting the same Cathy-esque beats about finding a man.
Pike’s script may feel familiar in spots, but an appealing, polished performer keeps it interesting and makes it fun to watch. It’s also a well-produced show with well-designed set & props, notably a distinctive birthday cake that serves as memorable promotional imagery, portentous set dressing and, eventually, a dramatic payoff of sorts — Chekhov’s cake, if you will. Good theatre no matter how you slice it…