South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa has a record of commissioning and developing new plays and to some, success: “Vietgone” by Qui Nguyen, “Cambodian Rock Band”, by Lauren lee, “Three Days of Rain”, by Richard Greenberg, “Brooklyn Boy” by Donald Marguiles and “Golden Child”, By David Henry Hwng to mention a few.
Now through Oct. 20th.“The Canadians” by Adam Bock, another commissioned play, directed by Jamie Castañeda is being given a full throttle world premiere staging on the Julianne Argyros Stage.
|Kyle T. Hester and Daniel Chung|
The play takes place in Port Allison, Manitoba where 23 -year -old Gordy (Kyle T. Hester) who was born and raised there played hockey and follows his family and friends on a regular basis to see the games is the focus of oft times what it takes to 'come out' to friends and co-workers. He and fellow travelers work for the town’s mayor, Claudette Oliver. He listens to opera and is enrolled in a pottery class.
Much unlike his buds, Bobby (Corey Bell) and Johnny (Linda Gehringer), each playing at least five different roles, Gordy is more on the same page as his other friend, Brendan (a sweet mannered Daniel Chung) as he is the hockey gang. He and Brendan do pottery together and something in the air tells that both are smitten but neither is ready to make the first move.
When Brandan, whose gay uncle is in the hospital, offers Gordy an opportunity to take his place with him on a gay cruise to the Caribbean he doesn’t jump at the chance but does agree to go.
|Kyle T. Hester and Corey Dorris|
Things go from mild mannered pretty ho hum petty office gossip on to somewhat over the top when the gay ‘Love Boat’ cruise leaves port and heads to warmer waters. The rest are Love Boat antics both comic and oft times wild and wooly for those looking for love, relationships, renewing old acquaintances or just plain baking in the sun, a rarity for most months in Canada.
The acting, all by seasoned actors some playing no less than three to four parts is the life support of this new play. With gender bending and change of wigs, costume and manly/ feminine gait the changing of characters are seamless. Without using that tactic, too many cooks would have spoiled the broth.
Gehringer, whom I have seen on many occasions at S.C.R is terrific as the Mayor of the city, Claudette back home. On the ‘boat’ side she/he plays an older gay man (among others) whose partner is Wally an African American (Corey Dorris) who also plays several characters including one called ‘Indian Princess’).
|Corey Dorris and Linda (Oliver) Gehringer|
Both Dorris and Gehringer have a wonderful rapport as Oliver and his younger squeeze going forward. Theirs is a rather laissez- faire relationship and it’s played out beautifully. Also adding and or detracting from the fun is Casey Brill who takes on no less than five different guests on the cruise…well, one is a white rabbit.
|Linda Gehringer, Kyle T. Hester and Corey Dorris|
As for our half in the closet half out, both Oliver and his playmate coax Gordy out of his little cocoon when they dress him up for the ‘White Party Ball’ and he buys the look hook, line and sinker. That and his seemingly transformation is a hoot.
Back at the office everyone knew what Gordy refused to admit, but all ended well. The downer is the play itself; the characters are shells of people. Bock’s “The Canadians” is more of a sit-com where character development could be established over a season, but in 80 quick minutes it is dire need of some rewrites.
Lauren Helpern’s stark set showed us a bit of snow in the first and last scenes. The rest were on board and in different places and activities on the Love Boat.
|Linda Gehringer, Kyle T. Hester, Daniel Chung and Corey Brill|
Denitsa Blizanakova’s costumes went from standard wool lined hooded parka’s to anything goes, especially flip flops that attracted the Canucks attention to actually draw some chuckles. Hat's off to Kristi D'Arrigo (wig ass.) for the outrageous looking wigs.
Josh Epstein’s lighting and Cricket S. Myers sound design fit right in to enhance and Yee Eun Nam’s projections put us in the party mood.
Kudos go out to the talented ensemble that make this new play somewhat entertaining. There were enough laughs and guffaws the afternoon I saw the production to exit with a smile.
Dates: Through Oct. 20th
Organization: South Coast Repertory Theatre
Production Type: Comedy
Where: 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa CA.
Ticket Prices: Start at $24.00
Venue: Julianne Argyros Theatre
Photo: Jordan Kubat/ SCR