by Lynn on August 11, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person out-doors in the Greek Theatre at Guild Park and Gardens, part of Guild Festival Theatre, until August 15, 2021.

Written by David French

Directed by Helen Juvonen

Production design by Simon Flint

Cast: Alex Furber

Sarah Gibbons

A bitter-sweet play done well.

The Story. This is David French’s lovely play about the beginnings of the Mercer family story. It’s a moonlit night in a small community in Newfoundland, 1926. Jacob Mercer has returned from being away in Toronto for a year. He has come back to woo Mary Snow, a young woman, now 17, he left without a good-bye or a letter in all that time. It won’t be easy. Mary is engaged to be married in a month to the son of a prosperous family. And she’s furious with Jacob for leaving her. Jacob is confident, a charmer, a poet and a man who holds a grudge. They are what the other needs. Will they be able to drop their anger and disappointments and have a meeting of their minds and hearts?

The Production. The production plays on the lovely grounds of the Guild Park and Gardens on the Greek Theatre stage. The set is spare. With that backdrop, you don’t need much else besides a rocking chair and a few props. As Jacob Mercer, Alex Furber is fit and dashing in his suit and tie. He has just enough confidence and boyish charm to win over the audience. Winning Mary Snow will take more than that. Jacob spins a poetic line to let himself off the hook, without actually apologizing for leaving Mary without a word or a letter in a year. As Mary, Sarah Gibbons imbues Mary with a steeliness but also vulnerability. She is mighty angry at Jacob for his terrible treatment of her and she lets him know it. Gibbons gives a clear, nuanced performance. Both Furber and Gibbons play beautifully to each other.

At times it seems that director Helen Juvonen is being extra careful by having a considerable distance between the characters/actors because of COVID so it is refreshing when Jacob and Mary play their scenes closer together in a few instances, creating the ‘intimacy’ they must have experienced before Jacob left.

At the production I saw (today, Aug. 10) there was a rain delay. The loyal audience stayed, umbrellas at the ready. A few adjustments were made to how scenes were to be played with a wet stage that added good natured humour to the enterprise. I liked that ingenuity. Sweet production.

Comment. This is the 10th Anniversary of the Guild Festival Theatre, that brings theatre to Scarborough in this beautiful setting. It’s been a rocky few years, certainly with COVID cancelling last year’s season. This season has Helen Juvonen and Tyler J. Seguin as the new Co-Artistic Directors. Good luck to them. May I make a few suggestions: Signage, please provide some. The Guild Park and Gardens are large. Actually finding the Greek Theatre where the plays take place is a challenge and yet in the years I’ve been going to see theatre there, the poor signage prevails. Surely you can afford a sign that announces the Guild Festival Theatre and then have arrows pointing the way. You can’t assume we all have an inner GPS to find the place.

How about some lights to help us leave when the show is done? An evening show ends when it is dark. Yet again there is little or no light to guide us out of the place, No one with a flashlight leading us across the uneven ground to a walk-way. No lights along the ground to do the same thing. The audience would really appreciate that: signs to show us the way in and illumination at the end to lead us safely out to the parking lot.

Actors are brave souls. They work hard to project their voices, but sometimes in an open space, amplification is needed. I know there were floor mics that helped. But the wedding party tonight in one of the buildings had an MC with a strong microphone that interfered. Are body microphones for actors possible?

Thanks. And I would hope audiences know to bring bug spray. The mosquitoes in Scarborough are particularly frisky.

Produced by Guild Festival Theatre.

Runs until: Aug. 15, 2021.

Running Time: 90 minutes.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Михаил August 19, 2021 at 1:48 pm

Unlike that other Newfoundland play running a few blocks away, this isn’t a big or flashy production. But Joff Schmidt is a copy editor for CBC Manitoba. Since 2005, he’s also been CBC Manitoba’s theatre critic on radio and online. He majored in theatre at the U of M, and performed in many university and Fringe festival productions along the way (ranging from terrible to pretty good, according to the reviews). Find him on Twitter @JoffSchmidt.