Prairie Winter production has Western Canadian style
You know you’re living in a tight-knit community, says the widow Alice, when you can’t sneak a peek at the marijuana grow op in your barn without drawing the whole neighbourhood’s attention.
Her friend Olive retorts that Alice would be less conspicuous if she wasn’t tiptoeing around the farm in a black trench coat: “This is Stony Valley, not downtown Iran — you stand out!”
This dry exchange was hilariously delivered on Thursday night in Bloom, the longer of two one-act plays that are part of the Prairie Winter Theatre production that opened in the Nickle Studio, upstairs in Red Deer’s Memorial Centre.
The Central Alberta Theatre presentation about two older women who have to reinvent their lives after losing their spouses is one part whimsey and two parts earthy humour. This is a particularly Western Canadian comedy style that Saskatchewan playwright Leeann Minogue pulled off to great effect in her full-length play Dry Streak, which was successfully mounted by CAT a couple seasons ago.
In Bloom, Minogue once again combines underlying messages about friendship, loyalty and parenthood with silly hijinks that focus on the more ridiculous aspects of life.
Take poor Alice, played by Debby Allan. No sooner has her husband died painfully from cancer than she stumbles across an illicit cannabis operation in an abandoned barn on her property. Thinking her lay-about son, Darryl, is finally taking some business initiative — however misguided — Alice is reluctant to get the police involved.
Then she notices the pot plants getting a little droopy. What’s a supportive mother with a green thumb to do, other than add a little fertilizer?
These unorthodox events require Olive (Erna Soderberg) to do what friends do best— zip her lip and pass no judgment. While Olive manages the latter, she can’t quite get her head around the first part, cracking wise about everything from the plants drying in Alice’s bathroom to the special dessert that turns up at Marge’s come-and-go tea.
Allan is a poker-face wonder as Alice, managing to convey both a recently bereft widow as well as a woman on a rush from the first real adventure she’s had in years.
Soderberg is equally good as gossipy Olive, who despite her tart tongue, proves a true supportive friend.
Director Deb O’Brien delivers the right quirky tone for this clever, one-hour play. Although a few spots could use tightening, the action mostly moves right along and there isn’t a dull moment.
Even the set changes are matched with a laugh-out-loud soundtrack, ranging from Mary Jane by Rick James to Wacky Tobacky from the TV series Weeds.
(Who knew there were so many tunes written about what Alice refers to as “the devil’s lettuce?” Sound designer, take a bow.)
Prairie Winter Theatre opened with the one-act Prelude to Thirty-Five by Seth Kramer.
This comedy, deftly directed by Nicole Leal, is the theatrical equivalent of speed dating as it delivers a whole rom-com in 15 minutes.
It seems Rae (Tara Rorke) just had a fight with her boyfriend, Jay, while staying at his parents’ house. After running off in a huff, she’s stubbornly waiting for the train she just missed, wearing only a fleece pullover in a snowstorm.
Jay (Jarrett Viscko) delivers her winter coat and gets a bleeding nose in the process.
So how exactly is this romantic?
Some of it has to do with the chemistry between Rorke and Viscko (their two rather juvenile characters deserve each other), and some of it has to do with the script by Kramer, who understands that in romance, timing is everything.
If Prairie Winter Theatre doesn’t make the last stretch of winter a little more bearable for you, it at least guarantees a solid evening’s entertainment. It continues to March 9. (There’s a cash bar).