Miramichi Players mess minds

Posted on June 9, 2008
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             Sometimes people go to live theatre because the show is critically acclaimed and wildly successful. Sometimes we go because we want to encourage and support friends and family. Often we are surprised by the quality of local production.

                     Such was the case when Michelle and I went to the Miramichi Players first effort Saturday night at the MVHS theatre.

            The show consisted of four skits like the bits on Saturday Night Live and a one-act play.

            The skits were hilarious and I was genuinely surprised by the skill of the performers. If I had to rank them by talent, I think the rankings would not vary much from their age in years. The younger, the better.

            In “Judgment Call,” three Major Baseball League umpires are warming up for a new season. One is a confident veteran. One is a rookie. One is an aged vet and suffering the angst of having blown a call, changed the outcome of a World Series game and led to the suicide of a player.

            The whole thing is a series of clichés. Clichés, of course, usually become clichés by being said often because they are true.

            Hey, you win some you lose some. It’s only a game.

            Doug Trevors, very convincingly, plays the confident, to the point of arrogance, vet who admits to no purpose in life other than the game. Let’s trust he is a good actor. He can’t really be like that.

            Bill Gunn is the self-doubting, anguished tentative vet.

            Lon Bechervais plays the wildly enthusiastic rookie with all the exuberance of Tigger in the Winnie the Pooh stories. He projects a level of energy that could make him a professional.

Sure Thing

          In “Sure Thing,” Jason Howe joins Cindy Rule at a restaurant table and the two explore dozens of possible reactions to lines in the conversation.

            A bell offstage rings regularly. When it does, the speaker goes back to the beginning of his or her line and starts over with an entirely different approach.

            She is reading a novel. He has read it. He hasn’t read it. He liked it. He didn’t like it. She likes it. She doesn’t like it.

            They will hit it off. They won’t hit it off. He’s on the make. They are soul mates.

            The brilliant thing is that the two of them each switch instantly from one persona to another in keeping with the lines.

            Howe makes a liar out of himself in his program bio where he says he believes everyone can act but disproves it when he does. He lies. He is very good.

            Rule is one of those wraiths who can switch from studious librarian to playful vixen or cynical feminist in mid sentence.

            “Sure Thing” really gives the characters a chance to show what they can do and how quickly they can do it.

            I am an addict to the theatrical magic known as what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called “the willing suspension of disbelief.” It is not often it happens as quickly and changes as often as Howe and Rule did.

Arabian Nights

          In “Arabian Nights,” Doug Trevors plays a businessman making a quick tour of an Arabian bazaar to pick up a souvenir before catching a plane home. An Arab hustler, Doug Howe, takes him in tow leading him to a store and acting as interpreter. Lisa Savage plays the winsome clerk in her father’s shop.

            The beauty of the bit is that, while the characters speak the words they would during a retail transaction, the interpreter relays what the man and the woman are really thinking about each other.

            In line with Cadogan’s law that the only two things going on in the universe are sex and foreplay, customer and clerk have an unspoken, (but clearly translated) imaginary, intense, romance each will remember forever.

            Savage has a serene, almost oblivious, sexiness no man could ignore. Trevors is obviously smitten. Howe weaves the romantic thoughts smoothly and still manages to interject his own motivation to get home for dinner.

            We hear their words and his. The words coming out of their mouths are not nearly so significant as the communication from their faces. His words, not theirs, match their faces.

            Excellent writing. Well executed. It is such fun when theatre brings us in on the joke.

DMV

            In “DMV,” the scene opens with Karen Howe crying the shuddering sobs of the heartbroken at her vehicle licensing desk while Bill Gunn waits to get a new license in a new jurisdiction.

            Howe pulls herself together and begins the information and documentation gathering required to license Gunn.

            Gradually, the process turns into a relationship dance that blooms and crashes leaving Howe again crying brokenheartedly while power woman Cindy Rule waits as Gun did before her.

            Howe pulls herself together and away we go again except that, this time, we immediately know Howe has struck gold and the skit ends.

“The Actor’s Nightmare”

            In the one-act play, Bechervaise plays a person who suddenly finds himself being called upon to step up from understudy to star. The beginning of his problem is that he does not know who he is. He has no idea who anyone else is either or what play the cast is doing.

            He is pushed on stage in a “Hamlet” costume with a pronounced codpiece that concentrates his attention. Another cast member, Karen Howe, is playing Noel Coward’s “Private Lives.” Frank McKibbon is playing various Shakespearian characters and, eventually, the executioner.

            Lisa Savage and Cindy Rule add to the nightmare as the stage manager offers or withholds cues and Bechervaise desperately offers bits from Shakespeare, Coward and even Dickens’s “Tale of Two Cities.”

            The nightmare builds to a climactic execution to which Bechervaise proceeds knowing he is dreaming and having heard that one cannot dream one’s own death.

            And then the executioner chops his head off and his lifeless, bloody, body lies there while the rest of the cast take their bows and proceed to the lobby to socialize with the audience.

            Yep. That will do for an actor’s nightmare all right. Especially the part about not getting to take a bow or socialize with an admiring audience.

            I was delighted with everything about the production. I liked the program notes which were funny and self-deprecating.

            I liked the background music before the show and at intermission. I very much liked the pieces they chose to do. I am a sucker for good writing and the Miramichi Players made exceptional choices.

            I was impressed and, frankly, surprised at the quality of the performances. If someone now told me (fill in the blank) cast member had been given a role in a professional show, I would be pleased but not really surprised.

            In conclusion, the only disappointment was in the size of the audience. I hope and trust the audience will build as the troop continues.

                                    DAC 

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