Tag Archives: hayley moorhouse

And Then, the Lights Went Out …

The first show of the Walterdale Theatre’s season is And Then, The Lights Went Out, written by Andy Garland and directed by David Johnston.   It’s partly a funny story about a writer’s life and partly a hard-boiled detective tale using all the tropes of that genre.

John Evans plays Thomas, a young novelist who is running out of ideas for his detective-story series.  Erin Forwick-Whalley and Jennifer Peebles are his landlady and neighbour, providing stakes, comic relief, and encouragement for him to finish his seventh novel for tomorrow’s deadline.  The rest of the characters in the play are the characters in Thomas’s work-in-progress, ‘tried and true archetypes’ of the trenchcoat-wearing private detective (Kyle Lahti), the mysterious alluring woman (Erika Conway), the thug (Chance Heck), the perky sidekick police officer (Hayley Moorhouse), and a menacing Southern not-such-a-gentleman who reminded me of a Die-Nasty character from the Tennessee-Williams-pastiche season (Curtis Knecht).

At first, there is some amusement in the concept of the characters having life outside of the story and having opinions on the writer’s work, especially the thug who wants to be different.  But I’d seen that done before.  I was reminded of stories about moviemaking, like Make Mine Love, or the Die-Nasty marathon weekend where everyone was a soap-opera character and also an actor.  I noticed that most of the characters spoke with different accents when they were “on stage” in the story, accents that evoked the hard-boiled stories of Raymond Chandler and Humphrey Bogart in Maltese Falcon, and then shifted to speech similar to Thomas’ own when they were not acting out the story.  Lights Went Out got more interesting and satisfying when the characters started pushing Thomas to make them more than stock characters, and then as he wrote they played out a story which had a satisfying and not entirely predictable ending.

And Then, The Lights Went Out continues at the Walterdale Theatre until this Saturday (October 25th).  Tickets are available at the door, or in advance through Tix on the Square.   The next show on the Walterdale stage will be John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, in early December.  I’ve been helping out with that one, and I think it will be good.

The Inspector General – ridiculously topical

The Citadel Theatre’s Young Acting Company show this spring is The Inspector General, as translated/adapted by Michael Chemers in 2010 from the 1836 Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol Russian original.   A report of the 2010 production mentions that many references to local Pittsburgh politics were incorporated.

This production, directed by Dave Horak, is said to be set in the city of Edmoronto, and it is enhanced by references that are sometimes generally Canadian and sometimes specifically Edmontonian.   It’s satirical and broadly comedic and I laughed a lot.  The mayor of Edmoronto (Eric Smith) is both corrupt and incompetent.  Most of the cast play officials in his administration (to use those terms loosely), from the City Controller (Marie Mavko, organized and imposing) down to the Co-chairs of the Emergency Crisis Centre, Frick and Frack (Philip Geller and Matt Ness, a hilarious slapstick pair in bowler hats and confused expressions).  The Mayor’s ambitious wife (Morgan Donald) was previously “dancing at the Moulin Spooge”.  The mayor’s surly cynical art-student daughter (Courtney Wutzke) was one of my favourite characters, because her portrayal of disaffected text-speaking young person was spot-on but she was actually a more complex character as well.

The main plot premise is that the mayor and administration find out that some kind of government inspector is arriving incognito from Ottawa, and they are worried about getting in trouble.   So when they hear that someone has been staying at a hotel in town for two weeks, they conclude he must be the inspector, and they descend on him with excuses and bribes.  But of course the visitor (Nico Ouellette) is actually a drifter and minor civil servant, with his equally hapless travelling companion Zippo (Lauren Derman).  When he catches on that the city officials haven’t landed in his hotel room to arrest them but to pay court to him and try to influence him, he smoothly begins to take advantage of the situation, stuffing the bribes in his pockets and drinking the mayor’s brandy. “Everything he says means something else”, says one of the officials, explaining all his behaviour in light of seeing him as the undercover inspector.

The comedy dictum “rule of three”, meaning to find humour in slightly varying repetitions, is well incorporated here by the writer, translator, and director.  Each of the mayor’s cronies and associates (Mavko, Hayley Moorhouse, Chayla Day, Eva Foote, Alex Dawkins, Marc Ludwig, Ness, and Geller) has his or her own distinct character traits and motivation, all interesting and funny.  Each of them has amusing stage business, a unique attempt to bribe, a funny way of arranging his or her chair for a business meeting.  Eric Smith’s mayor character was not exactly likeable but engaging, and his frenzied dance number near the end was delightful.  Niko Ouellette was a crowd favourite as the scoundrel they assume is the inspector.   I also enjoyed Chayla Day’s understated portrayal of the Mormon liquor-store owner and president of the Chamber of Commerce, and the subtle humour in her costuming and lines.

The short run of The Inspector General is complete, and the Young Musical Company’s show finishes tonight.  The Young Playwriting Company has staged readings Tuesday and Wednesday.  The old Citadel website had bios of the Young Company participants.  I’m disappointed that the new one doesn’t, because I liked getting to know the names of some of the talented emerging artists to watch out for around the Edmonton theatre scene in future.