Love and laughter @ Sweets & Treats

As promised, here’s back-up/guest blogger Tina McCulloch’s piece on Sweets & Treats, which ran at the Village Playhouse this past Friday night/weekend:

Guest blogger subbing for regular bloggergal, who was committed elsewhere this past weekend.

I was part of a Valentine’s weekend fundraiser for the Village Playhouse, an event they call Sweets & Treats. Yes, it’s the west end version of Cabbagetown Theatre’s No Sweetheart Required. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Sweets & Treats featured three short plays – all comedies about family and/or love – and delicious home-baked goodies served at intermission and included in ticket price.

Two of the plays – M.P. Fedunkiw’s Ashes to Ashes and Rosemary Doyle’s A Family Well-Knit – have roots at Alumnae Theatre. Ashes was part of Alumnae’s New Ideas Festival in 2010, when it was directed by Maureen Callaghan, who is on board again at the Village. Two New Ideas cast members, Debbie Krulucki and Marisa Ship, reprise their roles, and frequent Alumnae actor Steven Burley (Closer, Pride & Prejudice) makes a hilarious Village debut as a musical-loving funeral director in this comic tale of three siblings (Krulicki, Karen Drybrough and Edward Karek) and the brother’s dim-bulb girlfriend (Ship) planning to return their mother’s ashes to England. Aaron Marcus appears as Krulicki’s boss, who’s unexpectedly found love late in life.

A Family Well-Knit was a winner in Alumnae’s playwriting contest Write Now! a few years ago, and was presented then as a staged reading. At that time, Anne Harper (who directs the Village production) played the wife, and I read the part of a Basque boy! Alan McKenzie reprises his role as a retired British banker who reluctantly joins his wife (the wonderful Jane Hunter) at a dilapidated former church in France, which she purchased with their life savings. “It has ‘potential’?” he snorts, in one of my favourite lines. “That’s real estate lingo for ‘it’s a tip’.” Steven Burley (yes, again!) plays their married son, and Kyl Chhatwal, who appeared with me in the Village production Enchanted April in 2008, plays the Basque teen.

I was cast in the Toronto premiere of a delightful two-hander about lost love found again (Warning: contains bondage and brief semi-nudity!) by London, Ont.-area writer Lynda Martens, How To Hunt A Woolly Mammoth. My co-star, Paul Cotton, and I were directed by Valary Cook, who directed Catcher at New Ideas 2010, and is directing Elegy for a Lost Bookmark this year.

The Sweets & Treats plays had only three performances over the weekend February 11-13. The production team at the Village, headed by producer Steve Minnie, was excellent, supplying props, set pieces, crew, etc. All we actors had to do was put on a show for the large and enthusiastic audiences! And it didn’t hurt that because my play was scheduled first in the lineup, I was free to come out at intermission after Ashes, mingle and munch. Then I’d go back in, find an empty seat, and watch the last play, Family. On Saturday night, both the Alumnae playwrights, Marianne and Rosemary, were in attendance.

Although many audience members came up and complimented me and remarked how much they’d enjoyed Mammoth, the highlight for me was meeting “my” playwright, Lynda Martens, who travelled to Toronto for the event. According to my director Valary, Lynda loved what we’d done with her play, and thought Paul and I had truly captured the characters she’d envisioned. You can’t get better than that!

Thanks, Tina!

Stay tuned for more fly-on-the-wall New Ideas coverage – I’ll be visiting the first read-through of Summer’s End with playwright Francine Dick and director Kerri MacDonald tomorrow night.

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