Soulpepper Theatre brings Delightful Bed and Breakfast to the Toronto Stage.
Soulpepper has extended their production of Mark Crawford’s play, Bed and Breakfast, to September 8th. It’s easy to see why. It’s very funny, very fast, and it has 21 characters played by two actors – Gregory Prest as Brett and Paolo Santalucia as Drew – who change characters in the blink of an eye.
It’s also fairly long for a new play, two hours and twenty minutes with an intermission. I was concerned that it might be too much for my rather short attention span. Not at all. I was engaged from beginning to end. In fact, I didn’t want it to end.
Brett and Andrew are living in a condo in Toronto when Brett inherits his aunt’s house in a small town three hours away. They decide to move there and convert the house into a B&B, and, oh, the people they meet in the town! I know there are only two actors but honestly I would swear there are three or four people on stage in some of the scenes.
Both actors change characters so quickly and smoothly that you hardly notice. There aren’t costume changes, the actors change body language, their voices, and the way they move. They do have a few small props; a bead necklace, an earring, a pair of glasses, and a red hoody.
Prest and Santalucia are both very impressive and work well together.
It’s easy to assume that there are only a couple of directions the play can take. City slickers come to small town, have no idea how to renovate house, townsfolk with hearts of gold step up and befriend them. Or, gay couple come to small town, townsfolk make things very difficult for them, try and make them leave, one good person steps up and changes everyone’s minds and all ends well.
Instead Crawford’s play deals with family secrets, homophobia, self-awareness, self-confidence, fear, and the idea of home. They’re all handled with a light enough touch that they don’t weigh down the play. There’s always room to take a few minutes and shed light on significant subjects, even in a comedy.
I loved Alexandra Lord’s set, like the actors it plays multiple parts with just a few minor prop changes. It’s a Victorian mansion, a B&B, a Toronto condo, an upscale Toronto hotel, a gas station, a coffee shop, a house in Oshawa and whatever else it needs to be.
There’s a Victorian gable, complete with gingerbread, suspended over the set to suggest a roof. The set is on two levels and on one side of the upper level there’s a railing that suggests a large porch with stairs down to the lower level where there’s a big front door on the other side.
The door plays a big part in a particularly funny, farce-like scene with seven or eight characters coming and going as Brett and Drew try to serve breakfast on the first morning of their opening weekend. The scene is on that fine line between control and chaos and is pee-your- pants funny.
Bonnie Beecher’s lighting helps with the set’s transitions by highlighting the area where the action is; the area the audience is supposed to be watching. There is one scene though where the lighting is absolutely beautiful. There are Christmas decorations on the house, Brett and Drew are standing out front when it starts snowing; the light is heavenly.
My friend Elaine, the woman sitting next to me on the other side, and I all really enjoyed Bed and Breakfast and highly recommend that you go and see it.
- Bed and Breakfast is playing until September 8 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House Lane)
- Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30pm and Wednesday and Saturday at 1:30pm
- Ticket prices range from $37.00 to $95.00
- Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-866-8666, and at the box office.
Photo of Gregory Prest and Paolo Santalucia by Cylla von Tiedemann