By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
Shadow Theatre launches its upcoming 26th season with a new comedy about … comedy.
The inspiration for The Comedy Company, Edmonton playwright and sketch comedy star Neil Grahn, an artist of bluechip comic pedigree (he’s the head writer of CBC’s late lamented The Irrelevant Show) is a remarkable, and true, Canadian story.
In a way it’s comedy that’s a test case for comedy: laughter surrounded by death. During the First World War, members of the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry Division were asked by their commander to create and perform comedy sketches and musical parodies to entertain the soldiers, and raise morale. The Shadow premiere, Oct. 24 to Nov. 11, is timed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
John Hudson directs a cast that (so far) includes a powerhouse roster of Edmonton actors: Andrew MacDonald-Smith, Julien Arnold, Sheldon Elter, Steven Greenfield and Nathan Cuckow. Robert Walsh is musical director, and the design team includes Alison Yanota (set and lights), sound (Dave Clarke) and projections (Matt Schuurman).
Miss Teen, by the Vancouver-based playwright Michele Riml (of Sexy Laundry and Poster Boys fame), is set in motion when a shy teenager unexpectedly wins a beauty contest. Her single mother is drawn, ever more desperately, into the whirl of events in a poignant four-actor 2016 comedy with insights into class and definitions of success. Full casting awaits. So far Hudson’s production (Jan. 23 to Feb. 10, 2019) stars Kristi Hansen, Patricia Cerra, and Emma Houghton.
Lungs, by the Brit playwright Duncan MacMillan, takes us into a fraught relationship: a contemporary liberal couple very tuned to the precarious environmental fulcrum on which the planet teeters, grapples with the thorny conundrums of parenthood. Is it right to bring a child into the world under the circumstances? Are they over-thinking? The multi-faceted actor/playwright Jon Lachlan Stewart returns to his home town to direct the Shadow production (March 13 to 29, 2019) starring Chris Bullough and Beth Graham.
Chekhov turns farcical, and out-and-out riotous, in the finale of the new Shadow season (May 1 to 19, 2019), Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. At the centre of the zany Tony Award-winning 2012 comedy by the master American farceur Christopher Durang are three middle-aged siblings, named for deluded and mopey Chekhov characters from an assortment of plays, and sending up the Russian playwright’s signature melancholy and ennui.
Shadow leading lady Coralie Cairns stars as Masha, a self-centred actress who shows up at the family home with her latest lover in tow, the much younger and stud-ly Spike. Further casting announcements for Hudson’s production await.
Season subscriptions are available at 780-434-5564 or shadowtheatre.org. Meanwhile, the current Shadow season continues (through May 13) with Marie Jones’s macabre but socially insightful Fly Me To The Moon.