Montreal’s Centaur Theatre Company in association with Gananoque’s Thousand Islands Playhouse presents its season closer, Bed and Breakfast, a meaningful and must-see comedy about a gay couple moving from the big city to a small tourist town where they work on opening a B&B, all while trying to find their place in the community. Originally directed by Ashlie Corcoran, the Quebec premiere is directed by Krista Colosimo and successfully brings together different elements of theatre to create a sharp and fast-paced story of big decisions, discrimination, and finding somewhere to call home.
When Brett’s aunt passes away, he learns that he has inherited her house in the small town in Ontario where he visited her every summer growing up. Realizing that they are not truly happy living in Toronto, Brett and his partner Drew decide against selling their new inheritance, and instead choose to move in and renovate, hoping to open a bed and breakfast to the public by the next tourist season.
Upon their arrival, they meet friendly neighbours, but also quickly encounter subtle, and sometimes very unsubtle discrimination by a community they fear to be closed-minded. But after becoming involved in planning the town’s upcoming Christmas parade, the couple learns more about their new neighbours and is met with a few surprises. Over the course of a year, Brett and Drew deal with the stress of renovations, hosting their first guests, homophobia, and some shocking family revelations.
Written by up-and-coming playwright Mark Crawford, Bed and Breakfast is performed by two actors: Crawford himself as Brett alongside Paul Dunn as Drew. Brett and Drew narrate the story of how they came to own their home business, but also play over twenty other characters between the two of them in order to depict the couple’s interactions with the people in their lives.
Crawford and Dunn (who are also real-life partners) seriously impress as they effortlessly go back and forth between a wide range of roles of different ages and genders. The audience is rarely confused about who is being played, however – a testament to the actors’ talents – as they expertly switch between postures, mannerisms, and accents so that their characters are easily identifiable when they return in different scenes throughout the show.
The strong characterizations are aided by the writing: many characters are recognizable just by their verbal tics, such as the sweet lady who runs the town’s coffee shop, played by Crawford, who inserts the word “sorry” at least once into every sentence. Multiple secondary characters even have the opportunity to develop their back-stories, including the tough-guy contractor (Dunn) who initially hints at intolerance towards Brett and Drew’s relationship while working on their renovations, but later reveals a more caring side that is rooted in his past experiences.
The depictions of most of the secondary characters come across as comedic impersonations, livening up Brett and Drew’s story, but this doesn’t detract from the serious themes in the script. When some anonymous individuals vandalize their home in an attempt to scare them away, the couple ask themselves if they should stand up to homophobia and stay in town, or give in to the threats and move back to the anonymity of life in Toronto for their safety. A few considerations must go into their decision, including the example this would set for the next generation of gay people in the small community.
Brett and Drew’s homosexuality is an important factor in the story, as they fear discrimination and struggle to feel like any normal couple, but the play significantly allows us to view them as just that: normal people trying to live their lives. This perspective is refreshing when all too often in entertainment a gay kiss is used as a comedic trope.
Although a comedy, the purpose of this production is not to make the audience laugh hysterically throughout; comedy is used as a tool to bring perception to the story. Cleverly written hilarious moments often surprise, and the laughs are well-earned.
The set (Dana Osborne) is painted entirely white with only a few white boxes to represent various items of furniture, and Brett and Drew’s costumes (also Osborne) are in shades of grey and black. Although the actors change from funeral suits to underclothes to casual wear to show their gradual changes in setting, no distinct costume changes are done when switching back and forth between secondary characters. This clean visual allows all characters and settings to be left mostly to the creation of the performers. Although the miming of props initially struck us as odd, we quickly saw how it fit with this fast-paced style of storytelling. Changes in lighting (Rebecca Picherack) and precisely-timed sound effects (John Gzowski) also play a very important part in establishing instantaneous scene changes. These sound effects are used very well to illustrate scene locations and mimed objects. Natural-looking light is beautifully simulated, including lighting resembling sun rays and moonlight coming in through a window.
All theatrical elements come together to create numerous solid characters in a terrific two-man performance that truly captivates the audience from start to finish. In a world where gay people continue to strive for acceptance and equal treatment, Bed and Breakfast offers a needed perspective of a gay couple just trying to create a home, all the while providing an evening of laughter.
Review by Montreal Theatre Hub Contributor Veronica Schnitzer
When: April 25th to May 21st, 2017
Where: Centaur Theatre, 453 St-François-Xavier St.
Running Time: 2 hours 05 minutes (including one 15-minute intermission)
Admission: $51 (Thursday, Friday, Saturday evenings); $45 (Tuesday, Wednesday evenings); $39 (matinee); seniors: $43.50 (evening), $38 (matinee); under 30: $36.50; students: $28
Box Office: Call 514-288-3161 or visit centaurtheatre.com
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