There’s something I really love about checking out a show from a group, or at a theatre that I’ve never seen before. Gives one that real pioneer spirit, you dig? And if anyone gets into the pioneer spirit, it’s effete pampered sissies like me. So off I went, venturing far, far into the untold reaches of New Edinburgh, where the busses do not dare to run, to check out something new.
…well, after a quick dinner and pint at the pub, of course, and THEN I was off, in search of the Elmwood theatre. And yes, yes, I DID realize by the time I got down there that I probably should have checked the online map before I left the house (no, I STILL don’t have a cellphone…stop laughing at me, Nancy!), but I had the general direction in my head. I wandered off with plenty of time,and…and…holy shit, is EVERYONE rich out in these parts? Have I never been out here before, ever? My God! I think I just realized the evolutionary purpose of Vanier…it’s like a sort of civic Van Allen radiation belt, protecting the good folk of Rockliffe Park from unwanted detritus. No WONDER the busses don’t run out here! I was terrified I would set off some sort of automated vagrancy alarm with every mansion I passed.
I finally arrived at the by now expectedly-palatial Elmwood school, a sort of Hogwarts for people far better than you or I, figuring I was laughably early and would have to sit on some bench or other for an hour to pass the time. Of course, as soon as I entered, there was a spread laid out that shamed the NAC premiere I just attended last week. And free wine! What the…was this what it was like EVERY time a play happened here? I’m coming here ALL the time from now on!
Turns out, no. Tonight just happened to be a fundraiser for the Laurentian chapter of the IODE, which oddly enough none of the literature there bothered to elucidate upon (the acronym, that is). Luckily I’m home now, have internet access once again, so you can see for yourselves. They seem like a swell bunch.
After politely stuffing my face with a modest handful of nibbles (they had whole plates full of mini-eclairs! And real fudge! I LOVE this theatre!!), I finally headed on in to the space itself, a modest room with a nicely raised stage, so I didn’t fret the loss of stadium-style seating any. And oh yeah, after all this rambling about posh neighbourhoods and free food, thee was a bit of theatre I was gonna be talking about, and this is it…Somerset Maugham’s THE CIRCLE, from Linden House Theatre. A comedy set in the uppercrust England of the 1930’s, and an indictment of the role of men, women and marriage to boot, old Somerset must have had a rollicking good time writing this one, because it’s a helluva treat to watch.
Centered about the well to-do (but scandal plagued) Champion-Cheney family, Government official Arnold (Corey Reay, almost heartbreakingly repressed here) has a few problems to deal with. His Father (Robin Carter, elegant and crafty in the elder statesman role) is coming home for a visit, at the same time his long-estranged Mother Catherine (Linden House founder Janet Uren, gloriously in-denial as vain Kitty) is returning for the first time in 30 years, along with the best friend of Arnold’s father she ran away with (Robin Bowditch, gut-bustingly magnificent as the scene-devouring Lord ‘Hughie’ Porteous). At the heart of all of this is Arnold’s young wife Elizabeth (Sara Duplancic) and her handsome guest, Teddie Luton.
Now, I’d been wondering about the girl in the poster for this show ever since I saw it…she looked so damned familiar, and it wasn’t until I saw the name that it hit me…Playing Dead! Right! I just didn’t recognize wee Sara when she wasn’t being attacked by Zombie puppets (another chance to see just that coming soon)! And she does marvelous work here as the romantic young trophy wife, desperate for something more. Her scenes with Robin Carter, and the wonderful Janet Uren, are great to behold, as is most of this show. The humour is hilariously subversive at times, and the musings on the roles of men and women in society are, sadly, not as out of date as they probably should be. Extra kudos to the set designers, and costumers too…Elizabeth positively glows in every outfit.
There’s a lot to love in THE CIRCLE, even without the free wine. Maugham’s script, with all its manipulation, sexual politics, ribaldry and heart, holds up well, and director George Stonyk does it justice. I’m glad I made the trek through rich-people’s land to Linden House. And I’ll be back. The show’s on until the 29th, so catch it if you can! Peace, love and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)