By Donna McMillan | Port Dover Maple Leaf
Tuesday, July 25, 2023
KRISTEN Da Silva’s “Where You Are” lights up the stage at Lighthouse Theatre. Its opening night audience last Thursday was captivated by a touchingly funny story of family, love lost and found, secrets, pathos and the lives of uniquely lovable characters. The fast-moving play is peppered with witty one-liners and many laugh out loud moments.
Jane Spence, no stranger to Lighthouse, directed this well-written script. I saw the play twice in less than a week and laughed and embraced it as much the second time around as the first!
Suzanne, a single mom, moved into her sister Glenda and her late husband Mark’s home in Little Current on Manitoulin Island when she was pregnant with her daughter Beth more than 30 years ago. She chooses to sleep in long past the family rooster’s crowing time and has a sharp tongue that can be both critically biting and hilarious at the same time.
Glenda is the rock in the family who keeps relationships glued together, but is not above enjoying all the local gossip. She industriously makes jam to sell to neighbours. And, it just so happens, one of those next door neighbours is the very handsome new vet, Patrick, who is kept busy inseminating cows and reluctantly fixing the roof of the two women’s shed.
Beth has gone away to school and now works as a doctor in Toronto; a real doctor as opposed to a veterinarian, as Suzanne is quick to say when Patrick and Beth first meet.
A few sparks start to fly. The performance of all four actors was exceptional in their distinctive roles and much deserved of the audience’s standing ovation.
The action takes place on a beautifully constructed front porch of an island home, created by Set Designer Beckie Morris. The lighting, designed by Chris Malkowski, cleverly showed the passing of time from dawn to mid-day sun to dusk.
Suzanne is an eccentric character with some of the best bold, tell-it-like-it-is sarcastic lines that can be shocking and/or cringeworthy to her family.
Melanie Janzen is hilarious in this role as she points out how well Patrick can knock up a cow, how both Patrick and Beth are in need of rebound sex and how much she dislikes that noisy morning bird with the hairdo. Melanie has over 100 stage credits to her name and toured with Show Boat. Here in Port Dover, audiences have laughed at her performances in three past plays. Good to see her back.
Glenda is the family sage, lecturing Suzanne on her brashness and reminding her that she can’t ask nosy questions like ‘who you are sleeping with?’ as soon as she greets Beth. Contrarily, she names all her chickens after people she doesn’t like to make it easier to kill them for dinner!! She takes many humorous shots at her sister, particularly her string of comments about Suzanne’s early morning appearance; everything from “you look like you have rabies” to “you look like Uncle Leonard when struck by lightning on Halloween.” She has an emotional, heartbreaking secret she is reluctant to share. Susan Henley plays Glenda. She is also a well- known Lighthouse veteran, has performed from Stratford to PEI and was in the Toronto staging and U.S. touring of Hairspray.
Patrick, the buff new veterinarian, is performed pricelessly by Gaelan Beatty who is making his debut on the local stage. He has acted elsewhere in a number of shows from Grease to Mary Poppins. During his early drop-ins to the porch to buy jam and eat pound cake, Patrick laments eating his $900 wedding cake bit by bit after being jilted “nearly at the altar”; not to mention the awkwardness of having to take his Border Collie to the wedding of his ex-fiancée with whom he shares custody. He has numerous sidesplitting moments such as being tongue tied when he catches Beth wearing a very skimpy dress as his plus one date for the wedding and “doctoring” her when she twists an ankle. If it doesn’t heal, he “might have to put her down.”
Caroline Toal, also an LFT veteran and winner of two Dora Mavor Moore awards for her work elsewhere, was a joy to watch as she coped with her mom’s antics, delved into her Aunt Glenda’s secrets, watched the two sisters get high on medicinal (maybe?) cannabis and meets Patrick after her own relationship fizzles. She switches demeanor skillfully from the riotous young woman colliding with an ice sculpture on the wedding date to a doctor full of heartwarming empathy for her aunt’s health news.
Kudos to those in the Creative Team not mentioned to date: Alex Amini was costume designer; Meghan Speakman, stage manager; Ben Tuck, assistant stage manager.
“Where You Are” is on stage at Lighthouse Theatre until August 5. Don’t miss out! Tickets can be purchased at the Main Street Box Office, by visiting lighthousetheatre.com or calling 519-583-2221.