Market Centre Theatre
Written by Ken Cameron
Directed by Rob Coles
Produced by Pat Bell
Approximate running time: 1 hour and 50 minutes (with one 15 minute interval)
April 10, 11, 12 (2 p.m. matinee), 16, 17, and 18
Box office: 519-537-2582
Box office: 519-537-2582
Reviewed by Geoff Dale
Imagine a retired couple buying a condo in town, selling their farmland but renting their house to a young man they thought was an airline pilot but who turned out to be a marijuana grow-op entrepreneur.
Playwright Ken Cameron didn’t have to concoct such a tale because it actually happened to his parents, who names have been fictionalized to Charlotte and Allan in his splendidly funny and often poignant two-act Harvest.
Theatre Woodstock producer Pat Bell and director Rob Bell seized upon the idea of bringing the work to the Friendly City and voila, with two sparkling performances from the play’s only two actors Tanya Thomson and Tony Harding, the local company has delivered one of its finest productions in years.
Just considering some of the basic elements of the plot is enough to provoke a smile and subsequent laughter: a well-meaning, hard-working couple left with the mould-infested walls of their former home unlikely to be covered by insurance; a young man named Ron whom they believe not only to be a pilot but also gay with an unseen partner with the oddly menacing name of Razor.
Yet, while the storyline produces a generous helping of belly laughs, the real beauty of Cameron’s work and the Woodstock company’s delightfully spot-on interpretation is the interplay between the long-married Charlotte and Allan and the actors’ uncanny ability to play all characters in rapid fire – regardless of gender, age or nationality.
Thompson and Harding are simply magnificent, quick on their feet and able to catch all the little nuances from the play’s engaging dialogue. Remarkably both often manage to portray the same character within moments, switching roles with a simple change of a hat and the properly applied intonations and gesticulations.
Director Coles conducts the proceedings sprightly, letting the two actors loose – ready, willing and able to drag up a host of oddball characters from an obnoxious realtor and a wise old farm neighbour to the pessimistic police officer and a bevy of Charlotte’s church lady friends, wonderfully portrayed by the frenetic Harding – all without the drop of one of the four hats he miraculously props on his head within the blink of an eye.
Sarcastic one-liners abound from the two with Thompson’s wonderful portrayal of the contrary wife explaining just why her laid-back hubby suggests reasoning with her is like trying to find agreement with a tornado.
This is an absolutely classy production from beginning to end, smartly directed by Coles and greatly assisted by Mark Mooney’s complimentary and creative set design and Pete Dunbar’s highly effective light design.
While largely a comedy, there are just enough moments of genuine sadness to underscore the plight of the rural community, as those readying themselves for retirement face the realities of life beyond the comforting land they have loved so dearly for years.
A few other classic moments: a guard dog keeping the couple at bay while the frazzled Ron screams at the incessantly yapping canine and the preparation for a hurried botched interview on national television, intended to explain the woes of those folks misled by devious grow-oppers.
A memorable evening of entertainment courtesy of two gifted actors and a talented crew led by a director who brings the amusing work of Ken Cameron to life with shades of laughter and pathos. Harvest yields a much deserved **** out of four stars.
Pictured from left, are Tanya Thompson and Tony Harding. (Nelson Simard Photo)