Heat Wave

Written on August 20th, 2011

Heat Wave


By Michel Marc Bouchard
Translated by Bill Glassco
Performed by Karen Wood, Matt Selby, Natasha O’Brien, Michael Spasevski, Terry Barna.
Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia
August 16 to September 3, 2011
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Hot Stuff in Heat Wave

A little slice of summer in Quebec is on stage at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia – a cozy cottage on Leech Lake (yes, that’s Leech, not Meech). The peaceful front porch of the cottage should be everyone’s ideal place for relaxation.

But these folks are not relaxing. Giselle, recently widowed, has brought her new young boyfriend for a holiday. But she’s embarrassed to let family and neighbours know that she is dating someone much younger so soon after her husband’s death. The 20-year-old boyfriend, Yannick is far from relaxed. The neighbour M. Napolean never relaxes – he’s too busy with ongoing renovations and noisy carpentry. And then Giselle’s twins – Louis and Louisette – bring their Dad’s ashes to their final resting place: hardly a relaxing activity.

The story, written by Quebecois playwright Michel Marc Bouchard, has an interesting premise but some of the actions are far-fetched. This comedy is a departure for Bouchard who normally writes thought-provoking dramas. One also wonders how many jokes are lost in translation, but enough one-liners have survived in both official languages to make it funny.

Terry Barna dominates the laughter as neighbour Napoleon the handyman. Barna is the only cast member who maintains a Quebecois accent throughout, which adds to his charm. His comedic timing is perfect as he works around the cottage, tape measure in hand, wearing a tool belt and work boots. He uses these props to get laughs – even with something as simple as returning his pencil to pocket. Barna is adept at tossing off the one-liners: “I’d never leave my wife alone, I’d install an alarm system.”

Karen Wood is Gisele, the widow with the young gardener / juvenile delinquent / boyfriend. Wood’s expressive eyes change with her hair colour, as she attempts to look younger. Wood was the crazy old Aunt earlier this season in Leading Ladies and also showed her comedic skills in See How They Run last year.

Matt Selby as Yannick the boyfriend handles a difficult role well. He’s in trouble for stealing cars, so he needs to have a bad-boy attitude. Yet, we have to believe that he’s sincere when he tells Gisele he loves her. At times, his character seems to change too abruptly, but it seems to be due to the difficult script, not his acting. Selby is in good condition for his skinny dipping scene.

The twins, Louis (Michael Spasevski) and Louisette (Natasha O’Brien) also have sudden character changes, which tend to seem awkward at times. Again, I suspect that it is humour that didn’t quite translate. Both actors handle scenes where they reveal secrets to their mother very well, creating some touching moments.

The set is excellent. There is a complete cottage front porch with the obligatory screen door to the interior, as well as a sandy beach, complete with driftwood.

It’s nice to see a Canadian author’s work staged, even when it’s in translation. Quebec is rich with francophone playwrights that we in English Canada need to know. This is a good start. Thank you to Director Robert More for getting us acquainted. And best wishes to Robert as he wraps up his contract with VPP!


Heat Wave continues with eight shows a week at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until September 3. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or 519-882-1221 for tickets.

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