Heartwarming play explores comedy and drama in an insightful and stunning production, writes Gary Smith
By Gary Smith | Special to the Hamilton Spectator
Wednesday, July 12, 2023
They’ve come a long way in Port Dover. I’m talking about The Lighthouse Festival Theatre.
Always a reliable home for first-rate Canadian comedies, company artistic director Derek Ritschel has gone out on a limb this season, programming welcome diversity at this progressive theatre space.
Without suggesting anything remotely prurient or patronizing, Ritschel is promoting strong Canadian voices with invigorating ideas.
Take Mark Crawford’s “Bed and Breakfast,” the current Lighthouse comedy as a case in point. It’s a remarkable play, filled with humour, warmth and love.
Drew and Brett, a gay male couple, don’t want to hide behind closed doors. But they realize homophobia can be an issue, even in liberated Canada.
When Brett’s Aunt Maggie dies and leaves her graceful Victorian home to them, they decide to move from Toronto to a small, unnamed Ontario city. They want to turn the house into a Bed and Breakfast Inn and hope to find a way to fit into their new environment.
Unfortunately, not everyone is welcoming.
When an ugly message is emblazoned across their front door screaming homophobia, the young men have reasonable fears about staying in a place that might not really be safe.
What to do? Pack up and run away, or tough it out.
To find out how Brett and Drew respond to this crisis you’ll have to go to Port Dover, or later in the month Port Colborne, to see if courage wins out.
And I’m telling you, you definitely should go.
Crawford’s play, directed superbly by Stewart Arnott, is at turns wildly comic and desperately heartbreaking. One thing is sure, it will make you root for Brett and Drew. It will also make you condemn the fact they live in a world where who you love can possibly destroy your hopes and dreams.
The two actors on stage in Port Dover conveying all this are thrilling.
Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski is a mercurial Brett, suggesting a strong unbreakable spirit and a passionate loving heart. Warren Macaulay as his partner Drew is an open-book of powerful emotions. Together, these insightful performers create such a natural and caring relationship you are always on their side, hoping they can fight off the sad city bigots who want to hurt them and crush their loving relationship.
These two men filter into every cranny of Crawford’s play a kind of truth and honesty that is never embarrassing or unbelievable.
They not only embody the hearts and minds of Brett and Drew, they enact the myriad other folks who occupy their world, fleshing these subsidiary characters out with just a few lines of dialogue.
William Chesney’s set, against which this romantic comedy is played, is perfect. A wooden structure of a house, with the boards, lathing and porch steps visible, it has no real interior.
It’s as if it’s a metaphor for the emptiness of a house that has not yet been made into a home.
The costumes and lighting by Alex Amini and Wendy Lundgren respectively, are always just right for the characters and the mood of Crawford’s play.
Bravo to Lighthouse Theatre for having the confidence and courage to present a play that takes them slightly off-centre.
Theatre ought to be a reflection of the world we live in, not just the cosy parts that are perfectly vanilla in every way.
Be warned, there are a few coarse words, one in particular that is not frequently heard on many stages. It might have been a tad shocking to some, but no one fainted, and at the performance I caught, no one even gasped.
Remarkably, the big gasp came when Drew and Brett read the obscene sign slathered across their newly varnished front door.
The homophobic message sent a shiver through the audience, and that’s exactly what it should have done. Hate crimes diminish everyone.
I know, a few folks have walked out of “Bed and Breakfast.” Fine, it’s not to their taste. So what? Those who stayed until the final moments, when Brett planted a great big kiss on Drew’s handsome face, screamed the place down. Not with anger, but with warm approval.
If you think you might be upset with what is currently on stage at The Lighthouse Theatre then just don’t go see “Bed and Breakfast.”
The rest of you? Grab a ticket before they’re gone. This is the most delightful, warm-hearted comedy romance of the summer.
If it’s sold out in Dover, catch it when it moves to Port Colborne July 19-30.
Can you tell I loved it madly?
I laughed, I cried, I walked out of that theatre believing in goodness and humanity. Pretty nice for a hot summer day.
Bed and Breakfast
Who: Lighthouse Festival
Where: 247 Main St., Port Dover, 296 Fielden St., Port Colborne
When: At Port Dover until July 15. At Port Colborne from July 19 until July 30. Matinees at 2 p.m. and evening performances at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $48 Port Dover, $42 Port Colborne. Students and Equity Members $15. Call 1-888-779-7703 or lighthousetheatre.com, for both theatres.