Review: Treating serious subject matter with some laughs

Quirky characters were portrayed convincingly in Qualicum Bay Theatre production

Lenny Low as Ed the jailbird got the laughs rolling in Pen Pals

The premiere of the Qualicum Bay Theatre Group’s production of Opened Mail on Saturday  night offered eccentric characters, plenty of laughs, delightful music and a delicious meal.

Anyone who has attended a fringe festival where nothing is censored and no one is too concerned about racy content would have appreciated the show.

Directed by Donna Prima and produced by Sheena McCorquodale, the five short sketches on the newly-renovated stage of Lighthouse Community Hall were well received.

Opened Mail by American playwright Jules Taska is based on a collection of exchanged letters.

Because not every actor had their lines memorized it was a perfect first production for some of the less-experienced members of the cast who occasionally had to read from their letters to stay on track.

A wide range of issues were explored in the humorous and quirky sketches and there was live piano music to set the tone between each skit.

Donna Gladstone and Lenny Low were the first act on stage and presented sincere performances in Pen Pals.  They brought to life some letters written between a naive woman and a prison inmate in jail for shooting a man in the butt when he caught him in bed with his woman.

Musician Bob Steele performed a solid rendition of the Johnny Cash hit Folsom Prison Blues to set the mood of the skit.

Teri Petz and Anthony James were convincing in War Is Annoying.  The letters from a neurotic mother to her son who was serving in Iraq with the U.S. Army dealt with some serious subject matter.  But the audience couldn’t help but laugh out loud over the underlying comedic punches that resonated throughout the piece.

Switching Rooms which portrayed bickering nuns proved a little tricky for Valerie Stewart who played Sister Mary Fryer.  During one of her tongue wags to Sister Agnes Henny played by Heather Keller, she couldn’t find her lines but she handled the glitch with humour and class.

The production reached a high point with solid performances by Jane C and Dion Owen in Postcards From Sicily.

The letters about the hair-raising misadventures of a couple on vacation in Italy included a mafia dust-up, a goat being killed, time spent in an Italian jail with no flushing toilet and a constipated golfer.

Both actors convincingly portrayed their quirky characters.

The theatrics took a crazy turn in the final sketch Fairy Tale Mail.  The twisted ménage of familiar fairy tale characters included Cinderella performed by Donna Gladstone, Sheena McCorquodale as Snow White, Lenny Low as Hansel and Geoff Barnum as Red Riding Hood.

The confessions, declarations of love, secrets revealed and kinky hanky panky presented by this dysfunctional group of characters had a happy ending but one the Brothers Grimm likely would not have predicted.

The evening was a successful blending of many elements; a delicious meal with live music by Peter Mason and Bev Finch and quality performances in a venue that has come a long way since it  opened 30 years ago.

The theatre group will be putting on a second dinner theatre show featuring an Italian menu on April 5.

Tea-A-Ria written by Laurie Nienhaus is a comedy set in the late 1940’s and will have audience interaction.

For more information about the events visit www.communityhall.ca and find the group’s Facebook page called Qualicum Bay Theatre Group.

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