If you haven’t been to Sackville’s Live Bait Theatre recently, now’s the time to reacquaint yourself with this reinvigorated professional theatre company by coming out to their current production of Have you ever been to Bombay, a hilarious situation comedy by maritime playwrights Elizabeth Goodyear, Jenny Munday and Ilkay Silk. The play runs until Aug. 18 in the Tantramar Regional High School auditorium from Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday.
This play is about two very different women who get themselves accidently locked in a library overnight and spend the next eight hours learning to cope with each other’s habits.
The first woman, Amy Shore (played with great physicality by Mary Fay Coady) is a sort of would-be hipster trying to hang on to her fashion fantasies. The older woman, Lynn Parker (whom Ann Doyle creates with gentle intensity), is a mature student serious about completing her English degree she set aside years ago in order to raise a family. Like oil and water, these two don’t seem to mix at first, but through the surprisingly many adventures one can have in a library overnight, these two women find friendship. This simple premise allows the creativity of this clever script, as well as the talents of the cast and crew, to shine through and create a wonderful evening of theatre.
Having lost their beautiful theatre last year, Live Bait is producing this play in the jewel-box stage at Tantramar Regional High School. The stage is a bit cramped, but the setting and lights, designed by Mount Allison drama student Ricky Buchanan, make the most of it by adding to the sense that these two women can’t escape each other. Occasionally, the larger furniture at the front of the scene blocked some of the action when the characters were upstage, but this was fairly minor. The fascinating oversized clock on the back wall signalled to the audience the passage of time between scenes.
The costumes and sound design, also created by Mount Allison drama students Kendrick Haunt, a Campbell-Verduyn Theatre intern, and Crystal Chettiar, were effective and fun.
All this creativity has been pulled together smoothly by the new artistic director of the company, Lee J. Campbell, who also directed the production.
Campbell worries in his program note that this play may feel like a period piece because it was first created 26 years ago. There is no need. The play hinges on the women’s inability to contact the “outside.” Watching it I felt a refreshing sense of nostalgia for a time before the omnipresence of cell phones and other gadgets invaded all our spaces. This was a perfect choice for Live Bait’s second summer offering: small cast, simple production, clever and clear script with warm humour and just enough bittersweet to take the edge off. Perfect summer theatre!
While wonderfully simple in many ways, this intriguing play also takes some provocative risks with the audience. The first is the long blackout at the beginning when the lights go out in the “library” and the women have to find each other in the dark (it is never really explained how or why some lights then come on again, apparently only in this one room, but it’s a comedy after all).
The second situation is when the women go off together into the darkened rest of the library to find a telephone and the stage is left empty while the audience listens to their conversation coming from the wings. In both cases these risks, like radio plays, brilliantly engage the audience to imagine the characters’ actions. Everyone’s attention around me was glued intently to the stage, which then carried over to the rest of the scenes. Just like the characters, the audience has been put slightly off balance. We have to shift our attention from our eyes to our ears and that builds our complicity with the characters’ situation, drawing us in to their world even more.
Having only the two characters onstage the entire play is a difficult challenge well met by the two actors.
Although at curtain the energy seemed a bit uneven, with Doyle struggling a bit to match Coady’s slightly overwhelming physical work. However, well before intermission, this evened out and both actors were clearly in tune with each other’s work. Indeed, one of the biggest joys was watching the give and take between the two. The make-up scene where Amy fixes up Lynn’s appearance is a brilliant example of two actors creating exciting stage moments as a unit. Another particularly memorable scene (of many) is the “breakfast” list: bacon and eggs have never sounded so sexy!
Like these two women, Live Bait Theatre has struggled a bit recently with where they are and who they are. However, if this production, with its smart choice of text and strong acting and production values marks the company’s new beginning, then Sackville is in for a future of excellent professional theatre. But this can only happen if they have strong audiences. This is good theatre and worth seeing: don’t miss it!
Glen Nichols is the director of drama at Mount Allison University.