By Donna McMillan | Port Dover Maple Leaf
SINCE its record-breaking grand opening in Gananoque in 2015, playwright Mark Crawford’s emotionally poignant and pricelessly funny play, Bed & Breakfast, has been performed everywhere from Victoria to Charlottetown with cross-country stops in Edmonton, Regina, Toronto and Montreal to name a few.
On Thursday, it had a triumphant opening night on Port Dover’s Lighthouse Theatre stage. And wow!
Actors Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski as Brett and Warren Macaulay as Drew were electrifying in their lead roles as well as in the 22 other characters they played throughout the performance. Kudos to them and director Stewart Arnott.
Brett, an interior designer, and Drew, an assistant hotel manager, have been living together in a small apartment in Toronto for the past eight years. Brett notes he has been on the Marilyn Dennis show advising people on home decorating for houses that the two partners will never be able to afford themselves. An escape hatch out of the city opens when Brett’s 56-year-old Aunt Maggie tragically dies in a car accident. She leaves her rural Victorian home, with curtains that resemble old bridesmaid dresses, to Brett in her will.
Initially thinking the two would sell the house and buy something in the city, the couple decide, on reflection, to use their decorating and guest management skills to open a Bed and Breakfast they name in honour of Aunt Maggie.
During the course of the play, the audience meets a myriad of immediate family members, a contractor, a coffee shop (lattes anyone?) owner, a drag queen, men and women, the young and old; all 22 performed head-spinningly well by the two lead actors.
With a quick turn of the body, each actor seamlessly switched into his many alternate roles; most of whom were hilariously funny. Keeping each character straight in your mind was irrelevant because the message was clear. Some were supportive and welcoming while others in the community were homophobic.
Drew confesses his family has not accepted his gayness for 10 years and is sensitive to the fact that he is not listed as a partner of Brett’s in Aunt Maggie’s obituary.
Along with renovation challenges, the couple’s lives become more complicated when they are conscripted to organize the community Christmas parade annually coordinated by Aunt Maggie. Blatant homophobia arises and the men are bluntly told they are not welcome. Yes, there is coarse but necessary language in the play. Brett and Drew have to decide whether they will stay in their new rural community, letting love conquer hate, or move back to the city. There are other unexpected plot twists that keep the audience guessing.
Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski, who plays Brett brilliantly, has been on the Lighthouse stage for four previous plays in addition to performing in productions throughout Ontario. He was the recipient of the Dora Mavor Moore Award in 2020.
Equally good, Warren Macaulay made his Lighthouse debut as Drew. Elsewhere he has acted in Universal/NBC’s “Taken” and a number of other roles in plays from Frankenstein to Jesus Christ Superstar.
Once again, Lighthouse’s great Creative and Production Team ensured a wonderful theatre experience. They include William Chesney, Alex Amini, Wendy Lundgren, Tim Lindsay, Josephine Ho, Beatrice Freedman, Alice Barnett, Hailey Parker, Colin Mahon, Kassidy Sharp, Eiden French, Alex Sykes, Clare Padgett, Avery Delaney, Aiden Bridge, Wyatt Hoskin, and Riley Kennedy. Execulink is the season presenter and the Erie Beach Hotel a production sponsor.
In his opening night introduction, Lighthouse Festival’s Artistic Director Derek Ritschel told the audience “it doesn’t matter who you love, you are welcome here,” to loud audience cheering.
The play and its two performers received a well-deserved, heart-felt standing ovation. It will be performed in Port Dover until July 15 and the on to Port Colborne until July 30th. Tickets can be purchased by visiting the Main Street box office, by calling 519-583-2221 or visiting lighthousetheatre.com.