Bed and Breakfast

A Full Cast of Characters Delivered by Two

There are many amazing things about Bed and Breakfast now on stage at Blyth Festival Theatre in Blyth.  First, it’s another hit by Mark Crawford.  Crawford is the playwright born and raised in the small town of Glencoe who has brought us the hilarious comedies Stag and Doe, The Birds and The Bees, and The New Canadian Curling Club, so you know Bed And Breakfast is going to be funny.  Secondly, Crawford himself and his real life partner Paul Dunn are starring in this play.  Thirdly, and most amazing, is the fact that the two men each play 11 characters, male and female, young and old. That’s a total of 22 people in this play, but only two actors!  And they do it without any costumes or props.  We can only tell the different characters apart by the changes in their voices and mannerisms.

Crawford and Dunn play Brett and Drew, a gay couple living in Toronto, one an interior designer on a TV show, the other working the front desk in a big hotel.  They are trying to buy a home, but the prices are high and they lose out in the bidding wars.

When Brett’s Aunt Maggie dies suddenly, he inherits her big house in a small town three hours from Toronto.  They decide to move in, do some renovations, and open a bed and breakfast.  They deal with an assortment of people including Brett’s parents, the building contractor, a coffee shop owner and her partner, a brother, a neighbour, a couple of teen-aged boys, and of course, various guests at the bed and breakfast.  There is also a surprise revelation just when you think the story is all wrapped up.

Comedy is created by the contrast of the city guys and small town life.  There is also the difference in life styles, “where porch swings end and porch couches begin”.  The teen-aged characters are hilariously presented by Crawford and Dunn — from one’s nervous arm clutching to the other’s “I dunno” responses.  It is great fun to watch the two actors spin in a circle as they change characters, and it is so impressive that they get the right voice, walk, and gestures at the right time.  While they handle the lack of costumes or props just fine, they are given a little help from the sound person.  Doorbells ring, dogs bark, even food is crunched exactly on cue.

In contrast to the many laugh-out-loud moments, there are heartbreaking disappointments and nasty turns.  Offensive homophobic slurs and disgusting hate crimes give the audience a reality check.  The disturbing end to act one will have you in tears.

I enjoy a playwright who appears in his own show.  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Norm Foster take roles in several of his works.  Seeing Mark Crawford in this play is very gratifying; we can be sure the show is being presented exactly as the author intended.  It also confirms that his acting skills are as brilliant as his writing skills, and it’s great fun to see the real life partners as a couple on stage.  It’s amusing to speculate as to how much is based on their relationship.

Not only do Crawford and Dunn have perfect comedic timing with their many character changes, they also know how to create poignancy with the gut-wrenching moments.  This play is an excellent vehicle for them to showcase their talents, while offering an entertaining evening with a secret revealed and a reminder of human kindness.  Don’t miss this romantic comedy – it’s a real crowd-pleaser, if the full house jumping to an immediate standing ovation on opening night is any indication.

Bed and Breakfast continues at the Blyth Festival until September 28.  Call 519-523-9300 / 1-877-862-5984 or go to www.blythfestival.com for tickets.

Photo: Mark Crawford & Paul Dunn.  Photo by Terry Manzo.

Bed and Breakfast
By Mark Crawford
Directed by Ashlie Corcoran
Performed by Mark Crawford, Paul Dunn.
Blyth Festival Theatre
September 11 to 28, 2019
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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