Gordon Gammie and Kevin Curran play 28 characters in Ontario playwright Mark Crawford’s small-town comedy Bed and Breakfast. (Alexa Robin)
Two Nova Scotia actors thrill the audience in Bed and Breakfast, the season-opening comedy at Ship’s Company Theatre, Parrsboro, to July 28.
Kevin Curran and Gordon Gammie are amazing as Brett and Drew, two gay men who move from Toronto to open a bed and breakfast in rural Ontario in Mark Crawford’s 2015 play.
They are met by a small town that is often hostile as folks navigate accepting an openly gay couple.
It’s an interesting topic for a rural community in Nova Scotia. Some people I spoke to felt it was dated and that, ‘We’re past all that.’ Another person felt it was radical for Parrsboro.
The overall message is a sweet, heart-warming one of love conquering all in individual and communal relationships.
In a poignant comedy that is Part Wingfield series, part Fawlty Towers, Curran and Gammie create an entire community of characters – 28 in all – with director Pamela Halstead. It’s a tour de force with cracker-jack timing, outstanding physicality and some laugh-out-loud moments.
In one scene Gammie plays both an angry bride and the drunken groom trying to carry her over the threshold during the B and B’s hysterically disastrous opening weekend.
The actors both impersonate dogs excellently and create some extreme characters like Gammie’s hyper, “Oh-my-God,” female, real estate agent; a disaffected ‘I dunno’ teen; an Irish, lesbian, biker chick; the gruff older man across the street and a loving Toronto drag queen. (Occasionally the character switches are confusing and the narrative is clunky as Crawford forces a lot in.)
The actors settle into a natural ease for Drew and Brett. It’s always clear who they are and that their relationship is as solid as a sea stack as chaos swirls around them.
Bed and Breakfast has funny Canadian references to gay stars Ellen Page and k.d. lang. There is even a comical reference to Anne Murray’s sexuality in Anne Murray country – her centre is just a half-hour drive away. (Coincidentally Anne is going to be at the centre for a sold-out, 30th anniversary event July 27 and 28.)
Bed and Breakfast plays out against set and lighting designer Garrett Barker’s simple design of a double bed against a house form. Sound design and composition by Aaron Collier includes the excellent timing of sound cues. Costumes are by Andrea Ritchie with suits from Mansour’s Men’s Wear, a store celebrating its 95th anniversary in nearby Amherst.
On opening night – always notable for its friendliness and outdoor performance by the 19-piece Elastic Big Band – co-founders Mary Vingoe and Michael Fuller talked about starting a theatre on a boat with a flapping tent 35 years ago.
Some people in the town thought they were crazy hippies but others tenaciously supported them. In a moving speech, Vingoe paid tribute to the community for its support of the theatre – at this time without an artistic director but run by interim manager Clare Waqué (of Red Clay Arts and former executive director of The Bus Stop Theatre.)
Standing on the theatre’s deck where the old ferryboat MV Kipawo is now enshrined, Vingoe stressed that the theatre will survive “and thrive.”
To get tickets for Bed and Breakfast go online (https://www.shipscompanytheatre.com/) or call 1-800-565-7469. Show times are 8 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday with matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Other upcoming events are Nova Scotia playwright Bryden MacDonald’s Odd Ducks (originally staged at Chester), Aug. 7 to Sept. 1, the return of Nova Scotia playwright Richie Wilcox’s New Waterford Boy, July 31 to Aug. 1, and the Monday night concert series. (Parrsboro has a new craft brewery, Two Islands Brewing, right on Main Street. My husband recommends Fundy Fog.)