Reviewed by James Karas
Bed and Breakfast, the title of Mark Crawford’s play, conjures an image of a genial perhaps farcical comedy in a small town with some stock characters and Neil Simon-type of humour. Like a day on the beach, say.
There is some truth in that but this play and its production is so much more that your jaw will drop when you see it. The play is a gem, the performances are a delight.
Brett and Drew are gay and they decide to leave cramped Toronto behind and move to a small town. Brett has inherited, somewhat mysteriously you will find, a house which is suitable for a bed and breakfast.
Paolo Santalucia and Gregory Prest. Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann.
The two men have the usual difficulties with family and some people because they are gay and some prejudices die slowly. Their house is vandalized and someone writes “FAGGOTS GO HOME” on the wall and there is a mysterious caller that frightens the young men. Is he preparing something worse than vandalism?
I hasten to add that these are the least important parts of the play and if the production offered no more than that you would be justified in giving it a wide berth.
Don’t. The play offers a staggering amount more than that. Gregory Prest and Paolo Santalucia do not play just Brett and Drew. They play a dozen or two dozen characters. They do so with speed, talent and amazing effectiveness. The change from one character to the next is done with no hesitation, mostly without any change in clothes and can be done in a matter of seconds. Remember there are only two actors on stage and they represent family, relatives and town people of both sexes without missing a beat and being hilarious, moving and dramatic.
After some hilarious misadventure getting the house ready to open as a bed and breakfast, opening day arrives and there is more hilarity as young and old, horny honeymooners and teetotalers occupy the place. Prest and Santalucia represent all of them with breakneck speed and with uproarious result.
There is a plot that builds up nicely to a highly surprising and satisfactory resolution. The mystery underlying the plot is slowly and judiciously developed and all the time we have a loving couple on stage who cope with some bigots but also experience support and indeed nobility from the little town’s residents.
Gregory Prest and Paolo Santalucia. Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann.
Do not let anyone spoil it for you. See the production and enjoy the whole performance and the finale.
The set by Alexandra Lord consists of a large bed on a raised platform with a playing area in front of the bed and a door. It is framed to look like an old house.
Ann-Marie Kerr directs this seemingly simple play with care and finesse. The speed and frequency of character changes and the difficulty of differentiating among all the characters are handled with marvelous expertise.
If my superlatives and praise bored you, just go and see the play and you will remember the production and chuck my review.
Bed and Breakfast by Mark Crawford continues at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 55 Tank House Lane, Toronto, Ontario. www.soulpepper.ca.