I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to make it to the Ottawa Little Theatre last night. See, it had been a long week, as weeks go…had to work an xtra double-shift at the drudgery on account of a co-worker with a busted wing. Stayed up waaaay too late on SUBDEVISION night writing superlatives, and was then groggy as a grog-drinkin’ grogmeister the next day. Stayed up for KING LEAR tho, then drudgery and..and, oh, but it would have been so easy to talk myself into taking a night to myself. Visit with that cat who now lives with me, let him know he didn’t just imagine me, and that yes, I WILL be changing his litterbox one of these days.
But then I recalled that, at the Prix Rideau Awards a few weeks ago now, John Muggleton himself invited me to come and see their latest offering, BEYOND A JOKE, and the Visitor does not take invitations lightly. I’d planned on seeing this one earlier, but scheduling conflicts flared up (something I never thought I’d be griping about), but now we were at the end of the second week (of a three week run), and it was past time to do the right thing. Besides, I love the OLT! Cheapest Guinness in town (even if the bartender thinks I drink Keiths, and I’m too kind-hearted to correct him), and at 99 years and counting of continuous Theatre action, pretty damn inspiring even IF you don’t truck with the community circuit.
So off it was to the venerable OLT for Derek Benfield’s English countryside farce, about a family home plagued by a bizarre series of fatal accidents. We meet harried couple Jane (Jane Morris) and her easily distracted husband Andrew (Mike Kennedy) are just trying to wash the windows, after the unfortunate passing-away of the OFFICIAL window-Washer in a tragic ladder accident. Soon enough they are joined by oddball Geoff (Seamus O’Brien), new boyfriend of their daughter Sally (Kelly Fuoco). And by the time Andrews’ hard-drinking sister Sarah (Sarah Hearn) arrives, warning of the impending arrival of the new village Vicar (Stephen Liddiard), Geoff has overheard just enough of the family troubles to convince him he’s living in a nest of serial killers…and that’s before his own parents (Danielle Silverman and Allan MacDonald) announce THEIR surprise visit…
I’ll admit, it was a little tricky getting right into this one, mostly from the script itself. As miscommunication farces go, it’s about as subtle (and twice as strained) as a third-season episode of THREE’S COMPANY…half the time, even I was wondering why the police weren’t beating down this family’s doors, never mind poor Geoff. But the cast was solid…Morris and Kennedy as the lead couple handled things beautifully, and I nary heard their English accents stumble. Liddiard, too, shone as the befuddled Vicar. But it really was Seamus O’Brien as the rubberfaced Geoff who ran away with the show. Certainly, I never expected to walk into the Ottawa Little Theatre and see someone so flawlessly channeling Mister Bean on stage, but O’Brien pulled it off magnificently, and hysterically. Seriously, he was god-damned impressive up there, to the point where I was kicking myself for not having seen him in anything before.
I was laughing out loud a LOT at this show, and I bet you will too. Coupled with a lot of good staging from director Dorothy Ann Gardner, BEYOND A JOKE was a great night out at the OLT, and a great end to my theatre week. Very glad I made it out to this one, and looking forward to the conclusion of the 99th season with DANGEROUS LIAISONS (yay Sara!) next month. Peace, love and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)