THE MELVILLE BOYS’
THE OSHAWA LITTLE THEATRE
October 1 – 17 at 8:00 pm
The community theatre staple ‘The Melville Boys’ opened the 66th season of the Oshawa Little Theatre on Thursday, October 1. Canadian Norm Foster’s stalwart 1986 comedy/drama is a good draw of local groups for a number of reasons. According to the programme, ‘The Melville Boys’ is a thought-provoking, gritty and humourous exploration of the failings and strengths of human relationships. By today’s standards, the play might seem a tad dated; however, the audience enjoyed themselves and that is the most important product for all community theatres in their celebration of the performing arts.
The 80s have certainly been staged quite well for this production. Set designer Chris Francom and lead builder Peter Clark have captured a dilapidated set of a blood sucking, mosquito-infested atmosphere nestled somewhere in cottage country. It’s rustic, but welcome, dirty but clean right down to the refrigerator that hums each time the door is opened. Kudos to the properties and set team who were able to find as many 80s kitschy items as possible. And the music! After the bar of music was set in the 60s, the 80s had to be one of the best eras to crank up the tunes and this production doesn’t disappoint in that respect. I saw a few heads bobbing to the music (myself included)
Director RozMcArthur-Keyes is certainly one busy lady who will be directing a number of productions around the region this year. She has cast four actors who drive the story forward with humour and poignancy most of the time. We are first introduced to the Melville boys: the boisterous Owen (Michael Winn Johnson) and his contemplative, terminally ill brother, Lee (Will van der Zyl) who arrive for a weekend away from their responsibilities. Thrown into this mix is the arrival of the “steady” store owner, Mary (Nicole Vezeau) who has learned to “get by” along with her bubble-headed sister and commercial actress, Loretta (Marsha Cryderman).
There are some truly effective poignant moments of this play – the first occurs when Lee is asked what it feels like to have up to a year to live. The simple staging of a spotlight creates effectively what it feels like to be alone when one hears a cancer diagnosis. The second occurs in the opening of Act 2 after the emotional Mary and terminally ill Lee have fallen asleep on the couch curled up together after playing cards and talking all night. No words are spoken but the moment of silence as Lee covers up the sleeping Mary while he goes off in his boat are truly tender and yet heartbreaking.
Performances are solid most of the time. All professional and non-professional actors are aware that believability, sustainability and control of power are crucial for performance level. Ms. Vezeau and Ms Cryderman maintain a consistent and steady believability in their performances in their “differing” relationship with each other and with each respective brother. One quibble - Ms. Cryderman’s “blonde”wig is too much as it makes her appear physically as an 80s caricature. Remember, Foster has created four believable, human people. It might have been opening week nerves, but the high point of the play when Owen must recognize the fact that his brother is ill leaves us waiting for more. When cancer strikes a sibling, no matter whatever the ages, it leaves a tremendous mark and scar that can never be healed. As performances continue, I’m certain Messrs. van der Zyl and Johnson will rev up the heightened emotions needed.
Go out to see ‘The Melville Boys’ and support local live theatre in Durham Region. It is an enjoyable afternoon or evening to say goodbye to summer and hello to the fall.