Karen Bassett and Martha Irving star in Mary-Colin Chisholm’s Hook, Line & Sinner, to July 29 at Ship’s Company Theatre, Parrsboro. (Jennifer Harrison)
Sister Vivian Salter is back in action solving crime and cracking up an audience in Mary- Colin Chisholm’s mystery-comedy Hook, Line & Sinner.
The third instalment in Ship’s Company Theatre’s series, this play is highly entertaining, wonderfully local and warm-hearted with a convivial, village community of old salts, arty new agers, an embittered single mother and various pets.
Chisholm’s play is smart and silly, well-crafted, and then produced with lovely details to make it the perfect summer theatre package.
Sister Salter, incarnated by Martha Irving, has come home to Parrsboro for a writer’s retreat at Dominion House, much like Ottawa House. (The cat is named Tupper.)
The sleuthing nun is happy to see two old, high school friends, the doctor Maureen and the heart-throb paleontologist Ken, who recently moved back to buy a fancy house with his second wife, the hot-headed Lucia (Natasha MacLellan).
But on the night of the Confederation gala Lucia is murdered and Ken is the prime suspect. Like Miss Marple or Angela Lansbury’s Jessica Fletcher, Sister Salter must use all of her keen intelligence to figure out the real culprit.
Director Natasha MacLellan — just named new artistic director at Theatre New Brunswick — has a wonderful cast in Irving as the satirical, astute, no-nonsense detective.
Karen Bassett is a scream as a non-stop-baking, single mother who loves to dance, criticize her neighbours and run community events, all the while seething with an unknown resentment. Her performance is a physical and verbal gem.
Julia Williams has a wonderful pacing, warmth and use of her hands as expressive tools as Maureen. Her description of one amorous night is hilarious.
She and Bassett also play the wacky comical duo of Bliss and Felicity, neo-hippies who are enthralled by the area.
Martha Irving as Sister Vivian Salter is flanked by a comical, neo-hippie couple played by Karen Bassett, left, and Julia Williams in this classic whodunnit. (Jennifer Harrison)
Kevin Curran’s Scampy, the quirky fisherman who mangles the language and owns a misanthropic dog, is a comic highlight, while Stephen Cross anchors Ken as the suspicious, handsome academic. Micha Cromwell, a natural on stage, plays his daughter.
Chisholm cleverly combines the academics of paleontology and Sister Salter’s research into Hildegard with the pure comedy of local characters and Maritime humour. Her references run from Dante to fluff to the game of Clue.
The design elements are elegant and classy with Garrett Barker’s set of three housefronts, Leigh Ann Vardy’s lighting, Andrea Ritchie’s costumes and the poignant, light touch of a sound design including medieval song by Aaron Collier.
Laughs are guaranteed during this good-hearted, two-hour play with intermission at Ship’s Company Theatre to July 29.
Interestingly, Mary-Colin Chisholm starred as Sister Salter in the first two mysteries. She and Martha Irving, who starred at Ship’s Co. in The (Post) Mistress, are friends and co-founders of Lunasea Theatre.