Bed & Breakfast in the Distillery District – Mark Crawford’s Play Comes to Soulpepper Theatre (A Review)

The story of small-town gays leaving home for the brighter lights and safer havens of the big city streets is a well known one. Gays have been escaping the tyranny of close-minded homophobic home towns for so long, it’s a well worn trope. Growing up in the 80s, Bronski Beat‘s Small Town Boy became an anthem for thousands upon thousands of young gays stuck in horrible nightmare existences, fending off bullies at school and homophobic parents at home. The battle was never-ending. The song informed some of a way out, as it reminded others of the way they escaped.

Mark Crawford’s play, BED & BREAKFAST, turns this escape from small-town oppression ass over teakettle. He brings the gays back into town. Brett and Drew are a gay couple who inherit a family home when Brett’s beloved Aunt Maggie passes on. While they struggle with the chaos of their careers in the big city of Toronto, they slowly imagine themselves chucking it all in and retreating to the quieter existence and the more down to earth affordability of the small town in which their newly acquired home is located. Against the better judgement of their ridiculously flamboyant real estate agent friend, they eventually succumb to the notion and leave the city lights behind.

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Bed & Breakfast, now playing at SOULPEPPER THEATRE in the Distillery District (August 11th – September 2nd, 2018)

I want to say hilarity ensues. In fact, if I did I would be hitting the nail on the head. Because HILARITY ENSUES. I actually can’t remember the last time I laughed so much at a play. If Bed & Breakfast were a kid on the playground at recess, it would probably share its snack with NOISES OFF. It’s that kind of high-jinx funny. It’s so intelligent and witty and fast-paced. The same kind of high-camp that brought tears to my eyes while watching the bedlam and madness of NOISES OFF. Bed & Breakfast is gorgeously hilarious. I had a hard time choosing which of the two actors I adored more. They each play a bevy of different characters and the way they transform from one character to another is often as funny as the characters themselves. Both Paolo Santalucia and Gregory Prest were flawless. Just spectacular. If you go, keep your eye out for those first appearances of Santalucia’s earrings and Prest’s hoodie going up. Absolutely delightful.

I think the greatest achievement the two actors pull off is the absoluteness of the character transformations. At times the switches from character to character are so instantaneous and frequent, there’s the equivalent of a crowd on stage…and it is only the two of them, each juggling characters with such accurate perfection the audience never loses track of who’s appearing. How they kept the balls in the air, I’ll never know.

Now for the reason I hesitated in saying hilarity ensues. This play was extremely hard-hitting. As much as I laughed, I also cried. That’s because Mark Crawford nailed small town bigotry in a few brief instances that really took my breath away. This playwright has a powerful way of drawing in the audience with laughter, making them feel comfortable about what it is they are there for…a few great laughs. When he pulls the rug out from under you with the hard-hitting truth that not everything in the gay world is kikis and Cher and rainbows and glitter, you’re unprepared…but you also somehow know it was coming. It’s built into the premise of the play. Problems were bound to arise. The gays dared to return to the small town they escaped.

If BED & BREAKFAST is not yet on your radar, it should be. It’s a heart-wrenching, heart-warming story told with great comedic timing and soul. The depiction of what it’s like to be gay and facing homophobia and bigotry, as well as its opposite when the stakes are raised and support and love flood in, is so spot on it will break your heart if you’ve experienced it yourself in the past. If you haven’t, you’ll see it played out accurately on the Soulpepper stage. Without giving away too much, there’s a scene with a man in his 80s–a neighbour to the gay couple who opened their bed and breakfast–that will tear at your heartstrings. It’s the rub, perhaps of the story itself. When the ugliness of the world shows itself, there’s only one way to tamp it down. LOVE.

GO. SEE. BED & BREAKFAST. As they say, “you will laugh, you will cry.” It will definitely move you.

CLICK HERE FOR THE BED & BREAKFAST PAGE ON THE SOULPEPPER THEATRE WEBSITE.

DIRECT LINK TO TICKETS

BED & BREAKFAST by MARK CRAWFORD

Running at SOULPEPPER THEATRE

in TORONTO’s DISTILLERY DISTRICT

from AUGUST 11TH TO SEPTEMBER 2ND!

Bed & Breakfast Now Playing at Soulpepper Theatre!

Canadian playwright Mark Crawford‘s play BED & BREAKFAST is currently on at Soulpepper Theatre in the Distillery District of Toronto. I’ve been waiting for this one! I can’t wait to see it tonight!

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Here’s the synopsis from the Soulpepper website:

CANADA 2015

When Brett inherits the family home, he and Drew move out of fast-paced Toronto to set up a B&B in a picturesque tourist town. But will these big city boys face friction in their new community? With dozens of hilarious characters, all portrayed by two actors, Bed and Breakfast is a heartwarming comedy about “being out” in small town Ontario, family skeletons in the closet, and finding a place to call home.

Bed & Breakfast is an LGBTQ story set in Ontario. Fantastic to see LGBTQ representation on stage in our city. This was enough to draw me in. It promises to be a hilarious show, too. What sounds most intriguing is that the cast is made up of only 2 actors (Gregory Prest & Paolo Santalucia). “Dozens of hilarious characters, all portrayed by two actor.” Yep! I’m here for that! Especially when it’s Soulpepper putting on the production. Everything I’ve seen from them thus far has been flawless.

You can catch BED & BREAKFAST from now until September 2nd, but don’t wait…I’m guessing tickets will go quickly. And it’s in an incredible Toronto neighbourhood, too! There’s some great restaurants in the Distillery District. We’ll be heading to El Catrin, a Mexican restaurant, ahead of the show for a certain someone’s BIRTHDAY celebration dinner!

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Distillery District in Toronto, a gorgeous neighbourhood…and the home of Soulpepper Theatre!

There’s a bit of a warning on this one>>> “Note: This production contains strong/mature language.”

If I were able, I’d definitely check out the their new interactive feature MATINEE MORNINGS. Matinee Mornings offer an engaging and interactive 90 minute workshop prior to the August 22 matinee performance.” If your Wednesday mornings are free, you can check out the details for this performance HERE.

YOU CAN GO DIRECTLY TO THE BUY TICKETS PAGE FOR BED & BREAKFAST BY CLICKING HERE.

As always, Soulpepper Theatre has an interactive hashtag for you to become a part of the conversation around BED & BREAKFAST.

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Soulpepper Theatre is located right inside the Distillery District in the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION USING #spBedBreakfast

I’m really looking forward to tonight’s performance! Can’t wait to see what they do with this play!

 

Orlando at Soulpepper Theatre with a Book Club Tie-In!

After taking in the amazing production of La Bete at Soulpepper Theatre this past spring, I’ve been keeping my eye on their schedule for new shows. Turns out, they found a way to mash two of my favourite things–Theatre and Books. When I saw that they’re putting on a production of Virginia Woolf’s ORLANDO, I was excited. Then I discovered they’re also running a book club for those who want to read the book ahead of the show. How awesome is that!

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Readers can participate in online book club discussion as they read ORLANDO pre-show. AND on certain performance nights there will be post-show talkback with other book-lovers.

We’ll be taking in one of these shows ourselves. I’m re-reading the book right now to familiarize myself with it. There’s still LOTS of time to do so, if you pick it up right now.

As you read, you can use the #Soulpepperbookclub hashtag to discuss the book with other readers. And it’s quite the book. If you’re not familiar with Orlando, it’s about a poet who lives for centuries and changes sex from man to woman and meets key figures of English literary history along the way. It’s considered a feminist classic, and is often the topic of gender and transgender studies. Pick it up today and read it ahead of the production!

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If you’re a book geek slash theatre geek like we are, this will be right up your alley. After you click on the BUY TICKETS button, don’t forget to use the code BOOKCLUB for entry to the show and post-show discussion group. HERE’S THE LINK:

OH! Also, the book is super cheap at Amazon. Less than $2. I had to buy a Kindle copy, since I long ago lost contact with my paperback. I grabbed THIS VERSION HERE FOR $0.99 for my Kindle. If you DO read along, come to twitter to chat about it using the #soulpepperbookclub tag. I believe the play itself has a hashtag too… #spOrlando

See you there! Psssssst…we’ll be at Friday’s performance if you’d care to join us. Now I have to go do some reading…

LA BÊTE Coming to SOULPEPPER!

I can’t believe we haven’t gone to the theatre yet in 2018! Time to rectify this. Next Wednesday (May 16th, 2018) is opening night for La Bête at Soulpepper Theatre! In case you’re wondering, it runs through to June 22nd…lots of time to arrange tickets and get there. Us? We’ll be there on opening night!

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La Bête – Soulpepper (from Soulpepper website)

I absolutely LOVE a good comedy. And as a playwright, I know they are one of the hardest things to write. The thing about La Bête, which is an award-winning Broadway play, is that it’s written in RHYMED COUPLETS OF IAMBIC PENTAMETER!

Why the ALL-CAPS, you may ask. Because my FAVOURITE PLAYWRIGHT OF ALL-TIME also wrote in rhymed couplets of iambic pentameter. Co-incidence?, you may be asking. No. Well, not exactly. It’s actually because La Bête is an homage to–or at least inspired by–Molière. He wrote my favourite play, Tartuffe (I wrote a post last year on this blog about seeing Tartuffe for the first time on stage—after loving it for decades on paper). The thing is Tartuffe was first performed in 1664. For the La Bête playwright, David Hirson, to have tackled rhyming couplets of iambic pentameter in 1991?! It blows me away. For the play to hit Broadway and be so well received? Magical!

And NOW we get it here in TORONTO! Courtesy of and thanks to SOULPEPPER.

The SOULPEPPER synopsis of the play:

La Bête is a modern comedy of classical insanity. When the Royal Patron grows weary of their theatre troupe, actors Elomire and Valere fight for survival, as art squares off with ego in a riotous theatrical showdown for the ages.

My own thoughts on the play:

This play was originally set in the France of 1654, which takes us back to 10 years prior to the opening of Molière‘s Tartuffe (see above–because I’m a theatre nerd and I notice these things). I really hope SOULPEPPER goes large with how revolted Elomire is with Valere. Elomire sees himself above Valere, who is a mere street performer. He also sees Valere as an idiot, unworthy of their theatre company. Valere is also large and in love with himself, but a total dolt. He misses the insults. The royal patron foists the two together and they are thrown into a sort of love it or list it situation–save the theatre or lose it. They just have to figure out how to get along long enough to pull off saving the theatre troupe.

I can’t wait!

VISIT THE SOULPEPPER WEBSITE TO FIND OUT WHAT THEY HAVE IN STORE FOR TORONTO THIS SPRING/SUMMER

VISIT THE LA BÊTE PAGE OF THEIR SITE FOR INFORMATION ON THE PLAY AND TO PURCHASE TICKETS!

LOCATION AND BOX OFFICE INFORMATION FOR SOULPEPPER

LA BÊTE

SOULPEPPER

Young Centre for the Performing Arts
50 Tank House Lane
Distillery Historic District
Toronto, ON M5A 3C4

RUNS: Wednesday May 16th – Friday June 22nd 2018

See you there!

Staged Readings of Two of My One-Act Plays…

THE HISTORY OF US and KING OF THE CREASE, two one-act plays I wrote, will be stage read NEXT TUESDAY (AUGUST 1st, 2017) from 7pm-9pm at Port Perry Church of the Ascension (266 North St. Port Perry).

Thanks to THEATRE 3×60 for putting this on. I was thrilled to find out that they were doing this with both of the first two one-act plays I have ever written.

If you recognize the title of the first one, THE HISTORY OF US, it’s because it began life as a 10-minute play…which I wrote for DRIFTWOOD THEATRE‘s TRAFALGAR 24 Play Creation Festival. I was fortunate enough to land two incredible actors for the original production of this play. Both Christopher Kelk and Adriano Sobretodo Jr. were phenomenal in their roles as Alzheimer’s suffering Charlie Wilkins and his son-in-law Ben. Making a ten minute play into a one-act was a difficult task, but creating more for and about these two characters was a labour of love. Charlie suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and is mourning the recent loss of his wife, while adjusting to the changes taking place in his life. These changes include moving in with his son and his partner…and dealing with the complications this entails with other family members.

In King of the Crease, we have retired NHL goalie Frank Eno, who is struggling with aging and chronic back pain. His live-in adult daughter has a suitor who Frank admires while others in his family do not. It’s the story of a father and son, in the end…disguised as more of a family drama.

I hope you will join THEATRE 3×60 next Tuesday to see how these two plays pan out on the stage.

3xCanadians Staged Readings – Kevin Craig, August 1, 2017

7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Port Perry Church of the Ascension (266 North St. Port Perry)

Theatre 3×60’s summer company performs staged readings of Kevin Craig’s King of the Crease and The History of Us.

CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW TO BE TAKEN TO THE THEATRE 3×60 WEBSITE AND A DIRECT LINK TO WHERE YOU CAN BUY TICKETS TO THE EVENT FOR $10 EACH:

theatre360

BUY TICKETS HERE: https://squareup.com/store/theatre-3×60

 

A MESSAGE FOR WRITERS AND PLAYWRIGHTS: Staged Readings are interactive and the audience has an opportunity to provide feedback on the plays being read. These readings are GREAT WORKSHOP OPPORTUNITIES for playwrights and wanna-be playwrights. It will be a learning experience for anyone thinking of taking on playwriting. And, yes…it will be a terrifying experience for me, the playwright. I’ve never done anything like this, but I have an open mind and a desire to better my playwright skills. This is just the kind of opportunity that could make me grow as a playwright. For my local writer friends, this is an invaluable experience…come, learn, contribute feedback. I hope to see you there!

 

 

 

A Playwright’s Dream – Trafalgar 24 by Driftwood Theatre

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS ONE I WROTE FOR THE WCDR WORDWEAVER NEWSLETTER, FOR THEIR MAY/JUNE 2009 ISSUE. It describes my very first foray into play-writing. It’s a little aged today, as I have now had 10 short plays produced…6 of them for Trafalgar24. I just wanted to give a little flavour into the experience from a playwright’s POV. It’s an amazing experience.
Following the article, I have posted some info on this year’s (2017) Trafalgar24 event. GET TICKETS! I promise you, it will be an experience you’ll never forget. One of the best nights out of the year, for sure.
Here’s the article:
A Playwright’s Dream – Trafalgar 24 by Driftwood Theatre
 
 
 
It’s Friday the 13th and we are in a dark basement corridor of a haunted 19th century castle. Out of the eerie silence come the first ear-shattering shrieks.
 
 
          “Margo! Margo!” A girl runs towards us. She is lost, panicked and terrified.
 
 
          So begins the unfolding of one of my lifelong dreams. The girl’s shouts are words I penned twenty-four hours earlier when I was locked into that basement and forced to write a 10-minute play.
 
 
          Forced is an exaggeration. The fulfillment of my dream actually began a month earlier when I wrote a hesitant e-mail to Ruth Walker. I had received a WCDR e-mail calling for playwrights for Driftwood Theatre’s 6th annual Trafalgar24 event and I ruminated over whether or not I should apply. Actually, I painfully agonized. I asked Ruth if I was completely crazy to even consider contacting Jeremy Smith, Driftwood’s artistic director.
 
 
          When I received Ruth’s encouragement (instead of the expected laughter), I sent Jeremy an e-mail. I began with the truth: I am not now, nor have I ever been a playwright. I followed my confession with much pleading and begging. You see, I had always imagined myself as a playwright. Imagination is a wasted gift when not forced into action.
 
 
          Much to my surprise—and horror—I received the following reply from Jeremy: I am delighted to inform you that if you still have an interest in staying up all night in a haunted castle between Thursday, March 12, and Friday, March 13, we would love to have you.
 
 
          Fast forward a month and here I am in the dark basement corridor, in the back row of a standing-room-only, sardine-packed audience. The young woman is lunging toward us, shrieking out her lost friend’s name. I’d like to say I wrote a dramatic play that would move my audience to tears—I went in there with visions of Blanche Dubois meets Phantom of the Opera—but that would be a lie.
 
 
          When we arrived at the castle twenty-four hours earlier, we playwrights were each given a sheet of paper. Mine included three things: headshots of my actors, the room I was assigned to and the play’s theme—Friday the 13th in a haunted castle. I took one look at my actresses and I knew what to write. I sat on the floor of the basement corridor and attempted to bring my newly acquired vision to life.
 
 
          Within an hour and a half, I victoriously announced: Done. Comedy. Now I can relax about deadline & edit.
 
 
          Throughout the hours of edits that followed, I was comforted by one fact: Lucy Brennan was upstairs. I interrupted her and commiserated with her a few times throughout the night. We even went on a Tim Hortons’ run with some of the other playwrights. She was my unwitting rock. She had no idea how much comfort I took in knowing she was a mere staircase away.
 
 
          Come morning, the playwrights were allowed to go home. As we drove to our beds, the actors and directors swarmed the castle. They only had a few hours to read and rehearse the ten plays we had left behind. It was all very The Elves and the Shoemakers if you ask me.
 
 
          Opening night! The Trafalgar24 play-creation festival is a fundraising event for Driftwood Theatre. What’s special about Driftwood is that they bring professional theatre to Ontario communities for pay-what-you-can admission. Trafalgar24 helps to make this possible. The event had a wonderful silent auction and a dessert table to rival every dessert table ever assembled on this or any other planet. It also had a dizzying array of talented actors and actresses who poured their hearts into roles that did not even exist less than 24 hours earlier.
 
 
          I was now an audience member. Each person in attendance viewed six of the 10 plays. I saw some incredibly heart-wrenching performances. I travelled from the library to the cathedral to the piano room and beyond—Lucy Brennan’s was my favourite! I was mesmerized by the beauty of the night—flawlessly orchestrated by all—including the stage director, WCDR’s own Nancy Melcher.
 
 
          I made my way to the basement. In the hushed moments prior to my character’s screams, I noticed the evening’s emcee standing to my left. Neil Crone, the man who has given me years of poignant laughter, was about to watch my words brought to life. I was suddenly more terrified than I had been when faced with the impossible demand of writing a play in eight hours. But I had forced my imagination into action. I was now a playwright.
 
 
          ‘Lucy‘ made her way onto the set and was startled, poked and prodded by the wickedly playful ‘Margo.’ Neil Crone laughed! I will beg Mr. Smith to allow me to be a part of the next Trafalgar24. If he doesn’t grant me the incredible honour of being playwright, I will be there in the audience watching another year of magic unfold. Only a fool would miss it!
 
END OF ARTICLE
Want to learn more about the 2017 Driftwood Theatre Trafalgar 24 Play Creation Festival? FOLLOW THIS LINK TO READ ABOUT THIS YEAR’S PLAYWRIGHTS, JUST ANNOUNCED!
 
 
HERE’S A LINK TO THE DRIFTWOOD THEATRE WEBSITE. Don’t miss Trafalgar 24 2017. You’ll love it!