Been feeling a bit under the weather this week…it’s like my body was very politely waiting for my school semester to end before beginning catastrophic systemwide failures. So, thank you body, I guess, but I’m still all sniffly and what-not. But what better time for an invigorating spot of theatre, I say, and so I headed on down to the comfy-cozy Gladstone Theatre last night for just that thing.
On the marquee for the evening was Norm Foster’s ETHAN CLAYMORE, a seasonal (read: Christmassy) bit of homespun dramedy being put up by Same Day Theatre and directed by the smashing John P.Kelly. Starring smooth Tim Oberholzer as the titular Claymore, a lonely small town widower, quietly trying to manage his slowly failing egg farm all on his lonesome. Enter busybody neighbour Douglas (the great Paul Rainville), who has decided that Ethan has mourned his wife for long enough now (and at 5 years, he has a point) and launches into an aggressive campaign to get the solitary egg man back in the game, as it were. And he’s already picked out the single young schoolteacher (Sarah Finn, hurray!) he plans to set Ethan up with, whether they like it or not. There’s just the matter of grim tidings involving Ethan’s long-estranged older brother Martin (David Frisch)…and the complications from that are trickier to sort out than you might at first imagine…
I can tend towards curmudgeonliness when it comes to holiday-themed fare, so I am delighted to report I had a big goofy smile plastered on my face within the opening minutes of this delightful show. The cast is absolutely spot-on perfect, anchored by Tim Oberholzer as the quietly pained Ethan, weathering the various intrusions, welcome or otherwise, into his stripped down existence. He plays off of each of his co-stars with equal charm and ease, though with actors of this calibre it must be a goddamn joy. Rainville is wonderful as always as the boisterous Douglas, shouting advice and butting in whenever he can find an opening. Sarah Finn should steal every available heart in the room as the earnest and awkward Teresa, and even an old grump like me was rooting for her and Ethan to get together already. And David Frisch delivers a marvellous and needed infusion of snark into the works as Martin (and shoutouts also to young actors Nicholas Hutchison, Jeffrey Clement, Draeven McGowan and Alexander Lamarre who appear and understudy one another as younger flashback versions of Ethan and Martin, fleshing out key moments in their history).
Joltin’ John Kelly has put together a helluva show for the holidays (and nary an Irish accent to be heard..!), with just the right dose of seasonal schmaltz here and there. One of the flashback effects started to wear a little thin from simple overuse, but that may have just been me…still the usual great work on light and sound from David Magladry and Steven Lafond, and Roy Hansen Robitschek’s set looked cozy enough to settle down in for the night. This show is indeed a wonderful heartwarmer of a piece, with more laughs than you’re expecting, great performances all around, and a Christmas Tree worth waiting for. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)