A Killing Snow

KS 4

Written by Paul Ciufo
Directed by Kate Lynch
Performed by Catherine Fitch, Gil Garratt, Patricia Hamilton, Sam Malkin, Lisa Norton.
Blyth Festival
June 25 to August 13, 2010
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Blizzard brings laughs and thrills

Huron County theatregoers love this story of some storm-stayed folks who are trapped in a rural home outside Clinton. Having been caught in a blizzard once myself, near Russelldale, I can certainly identify with the very realistic scenario. The good news is that there wasn’t a crazed murderer among the friendly folks with whom I spent a couple of days.

A Killing Snow premiered at The Blyth Festival last week, the latest play by Grand Bend writer Paul Ciufo. Ciufo wrote Reverend Jonah which appeared on the Blyth stage in 2007, and for which he received a Governor General’s award nomination. A Killing Snow is even better, so he should be recognized for this work.  It bodes well for his future projects.

In the midst of a heavy snow storm, with roads closed, four people end up at in the home of grumpy retired teacher Gerry (Sam Malkin): Two of them are old girlfriends, Alena (Catherine Fitch) and Libby (Patricia Hamilton); plus a former student named Jack (Gil Garratt) and a university student, Callie (Lisa Norton). One by one characters are murdered. Each person left in the house is equally twitchy and odd, with a feasible motive. Ciufo makes them all possible suspects, and does an excellent job of building suspense.

Before the show began, artistic director Eric Coates asked the audience not to disclose the ending of this thriller – so that’s all I can reveal about the plot.

The play is cleverly written with plenty of humour, particularly in the first act. Ciufo also intersperses Latin phrases throughout, which adds to the mystery as the meanings are translated.

What the audience enjoys most is the local humour. When someone is labelled “Goderich girl”, the response is “that explains a lot”, and the audience roars with laughter. In Clinton, we’re told, both the feed mill and the rumour mill are busy. There are some friendly pokes at the area’s population of Dutch heritage, and Ciufo even has fun with his own background: “Are you Italian? You hardly use your hands when you talk”. A local issue is addressed: the city cottagers who blame pig farmers for polluting the creeks that flow into Lake Huron with manure. And oh yes, Jack is not pig farmer, he tells us he’s a swine herdsman – and model. But the biggest laugh comes when there is a discussion about Huron County family names – Jack tells us there are “gobs and gobs of Lobbs!”

So will this play translate to other theatres in other communities? To work well, it needs the local touch. The director and playwright will have to recapture the humour by using area references and names, for the show to get the laughs elsewhere.

A Killing Snow continues in repertory at the Blyth Festival, Blyth until August 13. For tickets, call the box office at 1-877-862-5984 or visit www.blythfestival.com

NEWSLETTER

Sign up here if you would like to receive notice when news, reviews, and musings are posted. You can unsubscribe at any time.