Canadians…great people, eh? Yes, indeed, I count several Canadians as my very good friends. But loving generalities cannot represent a diverse nation. Everyone knows that Canadians talk a little differently than us here in the lower forty-eight. Some people love to snicker at how they say “aboot” rather than “about.” Look in the mirror. Our great nation has a plethora of diverse accents worthy of a snicker too numerous to name. Okay, just a couple of favorites—Brooklynese and bland Minnesotan. I was born into that last one. Boy, some people in Denver thought my accent was oh so cute.
So let’s put the way people speak aside and get to the really interesting news of Adam Bock’s sensational play, The Canadians. In the bitter, winter cold of the prairie province of Manitoba, a tall person, a man, probably, but who can tell so bundled up is the individual that only the eyes can be seen, listens to a recording of the Queen of the Night’s aria from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Hmmm…interesting, that says something. He peers off stage left looking for his ride. The person stamps and jumps around to generate some warmth. Two others similarly wrapped for the winter cold join the music lover, carrying Bauer hockey bags with hockey sticks protruding. “Hey Gordy!” says one. “Gordy!” says the other. Okay, looks like they are all of the masculine persuasion. Gordy (Kyle T. Hester) quickly turns off his music and takes out his ear buds. The guys are Gordy’s brothers, Johnny (Linda Gehringer) and Bobby (Corey Brill).
“What were you listening to?” queries Johnny. “Oh, Metallica,” lies Gordy. He is hiding something and it is no secret for an audience who already know that The Canadians is about a couple of young Canadian men who go on an all-gay Caribbean cruise.
Gordy and Brendan (Daniel Chung) work in the office of Mayor Claudette (Ms. Gehringer), a tough old bird who is nonetheless an exemplar of Canadian niceness. The gossipy duo of Trish (Mr. Brill) and Beth (Corey Dorris) also work in the office. Trish has a running feud with Little Harry (Mr. Dorris). But let’s cut to the chase. Brendan’s Uncle Robert is in the hospital and can’t go on the all-gay cruise he booked and has given the tickets to Brendan who invites Gordy to go with him. After many hilarious scenes of office conflict, and brotherly disapproval, Gordy overcomes his reluctance to do something out of the ordinary and goes on the cruise with Brendan.
True protean actors are a theatrical treasure. They take on multiple roles in a single show, create distinct characters, and play them to the hilt. As indicated above, the protean actors are Mr. Brill and Ms. Gehringer who each play five distinct parts. They are marvelous, hilariously comedic, and poignant, depending on character. As life partners Wally (Dorris) and Oliver (Gehringer), they help Gordy shed his provincial shyness and lack of experience. Mr. Dorris is spectacular in an over-the-top performance as Andy, a handsome, drunken rugby player with an almost incomprehensibly thick Manchester brogue who takes a shine to Brendan. Under the impeccable direction of Jaime Castañeda, the cast delivers a show that is uproarious, and, ultimately, very touching.
Lauren Helpern’s scenic design (with lighting design by Josh Epstein) is an open stage bound with tall, white walls left, right and center with entrances upstage and doors downstage. The walls have a nautical curve at the base. The whiteness suggests Canadian snow and provides a screen for Yee Eun Nam’s marvelous projections that do all that is needed to cement time and place. The inspired costume design by Denitsa Bliznakova supports character and action. As always, Cricket S Myers’ sound design is flawless. The creative staff includes Andy Knight, dramaturg; Joanne DeNaut, CSA, casting; and Philip D. Thompson, dialect coach. The stage is managed with precision by Jenny Jacobs.
The Canadians continues on the Julianne Argyros Stage through October 20 at South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa.