Chris Pereira and Mat Hulshof in Bed and Breakfast. Photo by Epic Photogs.
I watched a play a week ago and I can’t stop thinking about it. It made me happy and it made me feel seen.
Bed and Breakfast, playing at Roxy on Gateway until December 8th (a week today), is a Theatre Network production, written by Mark Crawford and directed by Bradley Moss. Performers Mat Hulshof and Chris Pereira play a Toronto couple, Brett and Drew, who inherit a house in a small town and renovate it as a B&B, and the two actors also play 20 more characters who populate their world and that small town. The character switches are funny and effective, with the most memorable being Chris Pereira as both halves of a drunk and passionate honeymoon couple.
I think what impressed me most about this script and this production is its gentle subversion. It’s funny and charming and universal enough to be a success with summer-festival audiences (the program notes mention that it’s played at Thousand Islands Playhouse and Blyth Festival, among others), but it also illustrates some of the effects of misunderstanding and microaggressions and fear of violence for contemporary LGBTQ+ people, in ways that are easy for any audience member to see and sympathize with. Early on in the play, Brett and Drew are getting dressed for Brett’s aunt’s funeral in the bedroom they share. As they choose ties, Brett is reading the newspaper death announcement, including the brackets conventional for that context “brother Martin – bracket Linda – and nephews Steve – bracket Shannon – of Oshawa” – suddenly I know what unnecessary hurtfulness is coming next and I gasp in sympathy for Brett and Drew – “and Brett of Toronto.” Drew comments that they even included Shannon “and they’re divorced!” and Brett corrects “separated”. That one small scene gives us important exposition about who is who in Brett’s family (we meet them all later), and also shows how his family behaves about him being gay and how that matters. It’s not overdone, but it’s there.
The affectionate but messy portrayals of life in a small tourism-dependent community were familiar and fun. The Santa Claus parade committee. The locals who think $3 is outrageous for a latte and sneer at the pretentious coffee shop. The big-city designer trying to convince the building contractor that he really does want different tile in every bathroom of the B&B. It reminded me of Ontario places like Prince Edward County, Bancroft, Muskoka, and Gananoque.
I also enjoyed the awkward and inarticulate teenage characters, Brett’s nephew Cody (Pereira) and small-town neighbour Dustin (Hulshof), and the ways that Brett and Drew work at connecting with them.
Afterwards, I was thinking about how well the simple set (Scott Peters) worked for the narrative that occurred in several locations. None of the furniture ever moved, and afterwards I couldn’t remember if I had ever seen any real props or if it was just easy to imagine them with the actors miming everything.
Tickets for Bed and Breakfast are available through the Theatre Network website or at the door.