Ribalow's Shrunken Heads closes season
St. Albert Theatre Troupe offers work with deft satire
Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014 06:00 am
A quiet weekend communing with nature is a serene fantasy anyone careening through the rat race dreams about.
But what would happen if instead of relaxing in a private Jacuzzi sipping a martini, a stream of obnoxious eccentrics kept vying for your attention?
That is the $64,000 question Dr. Hyde faces in St. Albert Theatre Troupe’s season closer. Written by American playwright Meir Z. Ribalow, Shrunken Heads opens April 24 for three consecutive weekends at Kinsmen Korral.
Not exactly a Canadian household name, the now deceased Ribalow nonetheless had an extensive writing career as an internationally renowned playwright, poet, novelist, critic and children’s author.
A deft satirist of American society, Ribalow had the uncanny ability to blend bleak comedy with hard-won wisdom and ironic, gentle humour.
His 24 plays, many of which received high critical praise, enjoyed over 180 productions worldwide. As his career took root, he worked with numerous actors of stature including Blythe Danner, Holly Hunter, Ellen Barkin, Allison Janney, Eli Wallach, Zero Mostel and Christopher Walken, to name a few.
In Shrunken Heads, Ribalow introduces us to the well-heeled Dr. Hyde (Mark McGarrigle), a psychiatrist eager to spend undisturbed time at this country estate.
Hyde’s fantasy comes to an abrupt halt when his home is invaded by a parade of needy characters – a dropout daughter, Caroline (Adrienne McGarrigle), his money-grubbing ex-wife Jennifer (Rachel Cheechoo), a neurotic patient, Dorothy (Rita Jensen) and Norman (Bob Locicero), Dorothy’s rampaging husband.
In her directorial debut with St. Albert Theatre Troupe, Sandra McCallum notes that Ribalow creates a hilarious lens for the audience to look though.
“It’s very cleverly written. There’s a lot of witty banter and he includes a comical range of references from Shakespeare to Star Wars. And he’s created timeless and universal characters that go through stressful situations. We can all relate to them because we all have someone in our life that stresses us out,” McCallum says.
As a supporting character in Hotbed Hotel and Wife Begins at 40, McCallum was mainly concerned with her role. As a director, she’s eyeing the broader picture and that’s the challenge.
“You don’t just put your ducks in a row. You put everybody’s ducks in a row.”
Her vision was simply to create a production everyone could relate to.
“Hyde and the other characters have typical stresses over children, money, finances and exes and we can all relate to that. It doesn’t make us different. It makes us human.”
It’s a mad, mad world we live in McCallum adds, and we all make our contributions.
“We all have these quirks and it’s a good opportunity to have a good laugh about how crazy we all are.”