For A Good Time, Call Kathy Blanchard is playing at Factory Theatre for this year’s Next Stage Theatre Festival. Part farce, part family drama, it is wholly satisfying on both counts: this is a story that grapples with broken marriages, mental and physical illness, failed dreams, and hockey.
The plot revolves around four characters—in-laws and extended family—brought together by the imminent death of a matriarch while the Stanley Cup finals play on an old, broken-down television set. Everything seems on the verge of collapse here: the house, the game, and the relationships.
Michael Ross Albert’s script is quick and clever and his characters are vivid and colourful. Director Jim Warren keeps his ensemble cast (Daniel Pagett, Jennifer Dzialoszynski, Geoffrey Pounsett and Caroline Toal) playfully bopping along in grand melodramatic fashion without ever sacrificing the weight of their significant emotional baggage. This very talented cast makes it clear how deeply these people care for each another despite their intense—and amusing—irritation.
I think I was most taken with Caroline Toal’s turn as an unsuspecting fiancée! She’s so giddy and it’s contagious. She was responsible for my first and most satisfying belly laugh. Having been offered some flowers she’s allergic to, she clutches them enthusiastically and exclaims: “I still love to hold them.” I doesn’t read like much, but trust me, it’s beautiful and hilarious.
Another favourite moment was when a character makes this observation about family: sad people taking care of other sad people. The line is funny yet it strikes a deep chord. These people are dealing with unhappy truths and their struggle is made even more poignant by the humour they find in it.
As a proper farce should, this production has plenty of punchy entrances and exits. People nag, ramble, stumble and rant. It’s tremendous fun. Even when it touches on unpleasant subjects like testicular cancer or the horrific aftermath of a house fire, it’s still amusing.
I never forgot I was watching a play, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I enjoy that slightly over-the-top quality. There is something very charming and seductive about those perfect theatrical moments where you say to yourself: “golly-gee, that must have hurt!” or “gosh darn it, doesn’t he feel silly!”
For A Good Time, Call Kathy Blanchard is poignant and very entertaining.
- All Next Stage Theatre Festival performances are being held at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets for Mainstage and Studio shows are $15 and $10 for Ante-chamber performances
- Showtimes and ticket information are available at fringetoronto.com/next-stage-festival/
Photo of Geoffrey Pounsett and Daniel Pagett by Tanja Tiziana