It has been said one should not judge a book by its cover. This old adage applies to this year’s ECHO Players seasonal play at Village Theatre — Ethan Claymore might not sound very festive, but it packs a whole lot of holiday punch.
“It’s got all the elements you need in a Christmas play,” said director Wendy Punter.
That doesn’t just mean decorated trees, snow, magic, spirits, hockey and carollers either — although those things do make their appearances. No, the play is “about what Christmas is really about: family and friends,” explained producer Judi Andrews.
Written by Canada’s most prolific playwright, Norm Foster, Ethan Claymore tells the story of an artistically inclined egg farmer who has buried himself in work and debt since the death of his wife for five years. However, his meddling neighbour Doug McLaren decides enough is enough. He arrives at Ethan’s house on Dec. 21 and demands the younger man get out of his funk to celebrate Christmas. Doug presents a list to Ethan: buy new clothes, get the perfect Christmas tree and meet the new school teacher Teresa Pike for a little romance.
However, the ghost of Ethan’s estranged and recently deceased brother Martin arrives shortly thereafter on a mission for redemption. The brothers have to resolve some deep-seated resentment, which is revealed through a series of flashbacks to their youth.
Through it all, however, Ethan learns to drag himself back into life.
As with many Norm Foster plays, Ethan Claymore is tightly written and infused with humour, but also manages to capture our humanity.
“It’s a beautiful, beautiful play,” said Andrews. “There’s times where I’m killing myself laughing, there’s times I’m crying.”
“It goes very deep,” agreed Punter. She said that at times it’s so poignant that even one of the young male actors had to bring out a Kleenex during rehearsal.
Ethan Claymore is brought to life by a small six-person cast of relative newcomers. Doug Aalseth, who plays the title character Ethan, has only been in one other ECHO production, he brings to the table many years of experience with comedy and improv in other theatres. Likewise Mike Andrews, who plays Douglas McLaren, has acted in a handful of plays at the Village Theatre, though he is often found on the production side of things.
The role of Martin Claymore, on the other hand, was taken on by one of the company’s more seasoned actors Scott Murray.
The cast also includes three people who have never acted with ECHO Players. Heather Haseltine, a Nanaimo-area singer that Punter describes as having plenty of stage presence, makes her acting debut as Teresa Pike. KSS students Alex Hunter and Jeremy Fensome are joining the team as young Ethan and young Martin, respectively, after having their names put forward by their teacher.
“Everyone’s just great,” said Punter. “I’m really lucky.”
Ethan Claymore runs Dec. 11-28, with evening shows Wed.-Sat., as well as Mon., Dec. 22, at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are on Sundays, as well as Fri., Dec. 26, at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $19 for adults, $16 for seniors, $10 for students with valid I.D. and $5 for children 12 and under. You can purchase your tickets at the Village Theatre box office Tues. to Sat. 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., or by contacting at 250-752-3522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Win tickets through The NEWS. Please e-mail email@example.com with the subject “Ethan Claymore” for your chance to win one of three pairs of tickets. Winners will be randomly selected on Dec. 9.