Teatro’s season debut blasts from the past

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REVIEW

The Finest of Strangers

Teatro La Quindicina

Runs until June 16

Varscona Theatre

10329 – 83 Ave.

Tickets: $25 to $42. Visit www.teatroq.com

Abracadabra. Oh, how easy it would be to wave a wand, travel back to the past, and rectify mistakes that plague us, or ask questions about situations that left holes in our lives.

Teatro La Quindicina’s season opener, The Finest of Strangers, is a comedic time-travel, quasi-mystical mystery that flashes a spotlight on the unresolved. It is a funny, fast-paced work that also stabs at the heart and is a reminder that the past may be best left in the past.

Written and directed by Stewart Lemoine, this memory play takes us through sweeping and surprising turns as mortals meet immortals and ghosts of loved ones.

Mounted at Varscona Theatre, this two-act play centres around Bruce Faraday, a CBC TV celebrity reporter on a personal quest. He wants to write about people revisiting their old homes. He’s travelled to High River to pay a visit to the house he lived in with his widowed mother when he was six years old.

Mavis Craig, the current owner, is a gracious woman and a widow once happily married to Leland, one of her colleagues. As Bruce haltingly stutters his oddball request, she takes everything in stride and even appears delighted to take part in the filming.

However, when Bruce leaves to make arrangements with a cameraman, his legs are paralyzed and he cannot move. Mavis, who we discover has an interweaving storyline, soon finds herself immobilized by the same malady. Neither is permitted to leave the house until a handful of otherworldly presences deliver their messages.

The cast, made up of Teatro regulars, is a powerhouse ensemble that shares an easy-going, vibrant chemistry that only actors who are completely comfortable with each other enjoy.

Much of the show’s weight falls on Jeff Haslam’s shoulders (Bruce Faraday), and he delivers an impeccable performance that is at once charismatic and riveting, hilarious and poignant.

Bruce goes through a roller coaster of emotions from curiosity and whimsy to desperation and acceptance, and Haslam delivers every punch with the right force. This is unquestionably, one of his strongest performances.

Patricia Darbasie as Mavis, the only cast member making a Teatro debut, is the calm foil to Bruce’s more erratic character. Darbasie has a knack for grounding the chaos around her and she anchors the madness with gentleness and common sense.

Cathy Derkach as Victoria, Bruce’s depressed, suicidal mother, slowly peels away the layers from her character and leaves the audience as thunderstruck as Bruce.

Just a few scenes before, Leona Brausen’s Auntie Marj is a bewigged blast from that past that remembers Bruce as a child and treats him accordingly.

Perhaps one of the most entertaining characters is Michelle Diaz’s Clio, a mashup of fairy godmother, Greek goddess and Statue of Liberty. Just watching her disappear in closets and twitter about as the party hostess enlivens the action.

Julien Arnold, as Leland, makes an unexpected appearance revealing a few secrets of his own, and Billy (Mark Bellamy), serenading the audience with his lush tenor voice, treats us to a couple of jaunty Scottish ballads.

Some of Lemoine’s plays are pure froth and fun. Instead The Finest of Strangers is a champagne cocktail with a vintage kick that’s sure to get people talking.

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About Author

Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.