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Bright light

Review by Sean McQuaid 

Performed & Written by
Shawn Wright 

Directed by
Thomas Morgan Jones

Supported by
Erika Morey (stage manager) 

Produced by
Charlottetown Festival with Theatre New Brunswick

The Story
Shawn Wright grew up in a big Catholic family in small-town New Brunswick, raised by his father “Lefty” Wright and his mother Regina, whose colourful personality and community theatre exploits inspired Wright’s own acting career. This one-man show features Wright playing himself — as well as his mother and various other characters — in anecdotal snapshots of their collective history, focusing on Regina, his relationship with her, and her eventual death.  

The Performance
A true one-man show, Ghost Light is all Wright all the time, and he carries it with appealing, low-key confidence in what feels like a very real, very naturalistic performance when he’s speaking as himself. His other characters here seem comparatively broad by times, but they’re entertaining, and the contrast helps set Wright’s core persona apart from all the other roles. Strong in both comedic and dramatic moments, he is equally adept at earning laughter and tears from his audience. 

Best Thing
It’s pretty much a tie between Wright’s self-assured, movingly human performance and his script, the veteran actor’s impressive first effort as a playwright. He invests the people, places and times he talks about with so much colour, quirk, warmth and specificity that the subjects of his stories seem vividly alive, none more so than his late mother. 

Shortcoming
Transitions between segments are a bit choppy in spots as Wright sometimes seems to momentarily lose his place in the narrative or hesitate in switching characters, though any such hiccups are infrequent and fleeting. 

Final Thoughts
Wright’s well-written, well-performed show is uproariously funny, achingly sad, and frequently thought-provoking. Though it’s a one-act play, it feels like a full theatrical meal with plenty of entertainment value and heart. Wherever she is, I’m sure Regina is both flattered and proud.

—Ghost Light plays Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings at 7:30 pm until July 20, in the Festival Loft, accessed through the second floor of Confederation Court Mall, Charlottetown.

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