By Paul Love
The Scarborough Theatre Guild is kicking off its 60th season with the first show they ever performed — Alan Melville’s Dear Charles. A good theatrical comedy will have a twist or a hook that reels you in. Dear Charles has a hook, but it doesn’t have the sharpness it would have had six decades ago and, as director Michael James Burgess points out in his director’s notes, the only way to realistically present it is as a charming period piece. Approaching it this way definitely improves the play’s entertainment value, although there is still some mild racism and sexism to wade through.
Set in Paris in the 1950s, Dear Charles tells the story of Denise, whose three children believe their father, Charles, died when they were all very young. They are stunned to learn that, in fact, there is no Charles and they were each fathered by different men — who are all unaware that they are fathers. With a now-pressing need to legitimize her family, Denise has invited the three men to her home for a visit, at which point she will introduce them to their children, and decide which of the three she will marry, giving that man the role of father to the three children. What could possibly go wrong?
Director Burgess cleverly moves his actors about the stage in a way that uses the Scarborough Village Theatre’s thrust stage effectively. Despite this, however, a number of the actors struggled with volume issues throughout the show. No doubt this was most likely a result of opening night jitters, and the cast will find the full power of their voices as the run continues.
All concerns regarding volume aside, every member of the cast carried energy and enthusiasm onto the stage with them, creating very distinct characters. Allyson Landry is effective and engaging as Denise, infusing her character with a warmth and accessibility. Neil Kulin as Jan, the passionate, impetuous concert pianist, filled the stage with marvelous energy the moment he walked out, dazzling the audience with his comedic sensibilities. Andrew Horbatuik was also enjoyable to watch, creating a Sir Michael with a hilariously stuffy temperament. Len Henderson was quite good in his portrayal as Denise’s long-time friend and confidant, Edward, presenting a mellow, easygoing character that plays effectively against Ms. Landy’s high-energy Denise. It helps that Ms. Landy and Mr. Henderson share an easy chemistry on stage.
Nancy Palumbo’s set had the appropriate luxurious feel of a Parisian household, with lovely accents and great, bold colour, and it makes good use of the unconventional stage. It was all brightly lit by Chris Northey’s lighting design.
If you want to catch Scarborough Theatre Guild’s Dear Charles, head to the Scarborough Village Theatre, 3600 Kingston Road. Remaining performances are September 13, 14, 15, 20, and 21 at 8 pm, and September 16 and 22 at 2 pm. Tickets are available at the door or visit www.theatrescarborough.com .