Interesting performances salvage weak plot in Wrong Turn at Lungfish

When dying hospital patient Peter Ravenswaal seeks solace in the play Wrong Turn at Lungfish, he turns to the words of poets T.S. Eliot and Charles Beaudelaire for comfort.

When dying hospital patient Peter Ravenswaal seeks solace in the play Wrong Turn at Lungfish, he turns to the words of poets T.S. Eliot and Charles Beaudelaire for comfort.

Aside from some brief quotations, the same consolation was not available to the audience watching this Central Alberta Theatre production about life, death and the whole nine yards that opened on Thursday in the Nickle Studio at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre.

Lungfish was written by Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley creator Garry Marshall — who’s obviously no Beaudelaire or Eliot.

For all of his heart’s-in-the-right-place knack for making 1970s TV comedies, Marshall wouldn’t know profundity if Arthur Fonzarelli spray painted it on the men’s room wall.

However, this dramedy co-written by the American producer and Lowell Ganz does contain some humour and a few moments approaching pathos.

And the local production, directed by Craig Scott, has two interesting lead performances that pick up steam, even as the play’s broad-brush-stroke plot stalls out in the last half hour.

The action opens with Ravenswaal, a cantankerous, blind patient at the heart of Marshall’s dramedy, giving his nurse (Anya Paulsen) a hard time because he can.

It turns out the former university dean is angry, bitter and scared. Ravenswaal, played by Innisfail actor Robbin Edgar, is a childless widower and an agnostic. With no family or faith to cling to during his fatal illness, he is grappling with the Big Questions in his final days.

Into his hospital room walks perky volunteer Anita Meredino (Tara Rorke), who’s prepared to read to Ravenswaal in her halting, semi-literate and nasal style.

At first, Ravenswaal doesn’t want her to stay, but his loneliness — combined with Meredino’s willingness to squeeze in a few chapters of a pornographic novel between poetry readings ­— make him reconsider throwing her out of his room.

Predictably, the miserable old coot and the unsophisticated young broad hold clashing world views, with Meredino seeing things from an optimistic, emotional perspective and Ravenswaal from a purely intellectual, pessimistic one.

As they argue their way through the Theory of Evolution, art and religion, some facts come to light that make Ravenswaal tackle the subject of inter-personal relationships. More specifically, he doesn’t get Meredino’s inexplicable devotion to her thuggish boyfriend Dominic De Caesar (Travis Johnson).

Through Ravenswaal’s intervention, Rorke’s character gradually begins to gather self confidence and self awareness. The old man eventually allows his softer side to show.

Edgar and Rorke’s portrayals of these two reluctant friends become more dimensional as the play progresses. If the script was sharper, less manipulative and more subtle, the ending might even have been tearful.

What can be said for Wrong Turn at Lungfish is that at least it doesn’t attempt to easily answer questions that are destined to be pondered for centuries to come.

And I guess you’ve got to give the playwrights some credit for asking the questions in the first place.

The play, with adult themes, continues to March 7.

Just Posted

Man allegedly stabbed in hand at Red Deer fast food restaurant

Red Deer RCMP are asking the public to help identify the suspect

New book in Otis children’s series now available

Medicine River Wildlife Centre fundraiser

Police investigate shooting at O’Chiese

High-powered firearm involved

Rollover on Hwy 2 near Red Deer

Driver sustains minor injuries

Video: Windows smashed at three Red Deer businesses

Red Deer RCMP arrest man after vandalism spree

NHL stays with status quo as Canada pot legalization looms

As Riley Cote took and delivered countless punches over more than a… Continue reading

Paul Stanley: Kiss farewell tour could include ex-members

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — It won’t be all night, but former members… Continue reading

Judge tosses Stormy Daniels’ defamation suit against Trump

WASHINGTON — A federal judge dismissed Stormy Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against President… Continue reading

Canada open to growing trade with China now that USMCA is a done deal: PM

TORONTO — Canada is open to doing more business with China now… Continue reading

Pot shop raids “highly unlikely” on Wednesday: head of police chiefs

VANCOUVER — Police departments across Canada are fully prepared for marijuana legalization… Continue reading

Campers will be able to smoke cannabis at campsites in Canada’s national parks

Parks Canada says visitors should do their research on cannabis before going… Continue reading

U.S. pot firms urge Trump to deny Canadian producers’ ‘competitive advantage’

WASHINGTON — An American cannabis producer is warning President Donald Trump that… Continue reading

Automated cars could kill wide range of jobs, federal documents say

OTTAWA — More than one million jobs could be lost to the… Continue reading

Most Read