The Catering Queen – Catering Queen Co-op

By Crystal WoodDSC_0488



The Catering Queen, playing at Tarragon Extra Space, feels like it should be required viewing for anyone who works in the arts.

Playwright Alison Lawrence (who also plays the lead character Mel) freely admits the show’s subject matter is drawn from her own life. It revolves around a group of people who work as caterers while pursuing their artistic dreams, a job Lawrence herself held for several years.

Set at a party in a Forest Hill home, the characters spend their time in the kitchen talking about their real careers, (acting, writing, massage therapy), all the while avoiding the fact that catering has become their real career. It’s an important message for everyone to not let real life get in the way of dreams. (I admit it; I worked on my novel for about two hours after watching The Catering Queen. Thank you, Alison Lawrence.)

My show partner, Sarah, does not work in the arts, and I wish I could say that was my brilliant effort to provide balance, but it was really just a coincidence. I think she enjoyed the play as much as I did. We both agreed that the humour could best be described as “sitcom-y.” (Though the second act is more serious than the first.) We also agreed that “sitcom-y” is a perfectly valid word.

All of the actors were in top form, and all but one were a part of The Catering Queen’s original production at the 2006 Toronto Fringe Festival. Mary Francis Moore has some of the funniest moments as Julia, Mel’s ex’s new girlfriend. I also enjoyed Brian Young, who played the ex-boyfriend in question with a wide-eyed, gosh-shucks-surely-I-never-did-a-single-thing-wrong-in-our-relationship! attitude.

I asked Sarah if there was anything she didn’t like about the play, and her response was, “No… although, were they winking at me?” I noticed it too, and at first, I thought it had to do with the construction of the set that had them constantly exiting downstage centre. But there were definitely a couple of moments where they broke the fourth wall with a wink or smirk, which I’m going to hope were just opening night wrinkles. The audience was energetic,  and it was evident the cast fed off that energy. With more than a few recognizable actors/writers/theatre people in the audience, it’s likely they were sympathizing with a world they know all too well.

With a partial Christmas theme, The Catering Queen is a good way to get your mind off of your impending holiday stress by watching someone else’s holiday stress for approximately 90 minutes.

– Tarragon Theatre Extra Space, 30 Bridgman Ave.  
– Plays until December 6, 2009 
– Performances run Tuesday to Saturday at 8 PM; Sunday at 2:30 PM 
– Prices: Tuesday-Thursday $20; Friday and Saturday $25; Sunday PWYC
– Tickets are available through the Tarragon Theatre Box Office at 416-531-1827, online at or at the door. 
Photo of (from L to R): David MacNiven, Alison Lawrence, Mary Francis Moore, Brian Young and Sharon Heldt.