A Fun Rural Comedy
Reviewed by Vicki Stokes
Buying the Farm is an excellent choice for the Drayton Festival Theatre this summer. It’s a comedy and a light romance, great for the summer holidays but very relevant. Surrounded by farm country, it is a tribute to hard-working farmers who will all face inevitable change. Having first premiered at the Port Stanley Festival Theatre, the play is now being featured at two Drayton theatres.
Outside the theatre is a red 1946 Massey-Harris tractor, a loaner that beckons passersby to enter. On the stage is a farmhouse exterior and a cast of three characters, including a nervous stranger from the city who approaches the home. I can’t help but draw comparisons to another play I’ve seen recently (The Drawer Boy) but as the humour continues non-stop, I leave the comparisons behind. Both plays are excellent but very different.
Brad Deacon is a young, quite green real estate agent with a grand proposal for the aging farmer Magnus Bjornson. Brad, modelling his new western-wear duds like a Nashville backup singer, has his talking points and strategy loosely rehearsed in his head when Magnus recruits him to carry some firewood, commencing the downfall of his spiffy outfit and his planned spiel. He is a true city boy with a weak stomach, yet Magnus sees something in him and manages to keep him around. When Esme Van Fossen, the great-niece of Magnus, discovers what Brad is doing there, she tries to run him down and run him off. In her mind, he is another leech trying to take advantage of her relative. She is concerned for her great-uncle’s health as well as his property and finances.
Esme’s presence at the farm is not immediately explained; she is young and smart, yet she is spending her time helping Magnus keep up with the chores. She calls Brad “Latte,” having seen him make that ridiculous order in her little town. Despite her contempt, and Brad insisting on going through the expected negotiation process, Brad seems genuine, unlike his rich, successful mogul of a father. Esme and Brad have a few moments where they share some of their personal details, and just as you think they are bonding, Brad begins to feel comfortable enough to share with Magnus the horrid agenda of the banks and the pressure he could face if he doesn’t make the deal, incensing Esme anew. Unfortunately for her, Brad isn’t so easy to get rid of, thanks to a skunk. That is act one, with everything coming to a satisfying conclusion in act two.
Buying the Farm was co-written by Gemini award winner Shelley Hoffman and Stephen Sparks (actor in Newsies for Drayton Entertainment) who was inspired by his experiences on the family farm. The cast of Buying the Farm includes the brilliant Terry Barna as Magnus and spirited Alex Furber as Brad. Kelly Van der Burg, in her Drayton debut, is strong, sassy and smart as Esme. And under the direction of Lee MacDougall (actor in Come From Away), there’s a heap of talent piled in this play, and the result is a thoughtful story with a load of laughs.
The set is a cozy exterior of an old farmhouse and shed. It could be any typical yet disappearing small farm in rural Ontario. We never get to see inside, but there is plenty of set dressing on the outside. There’s a porch, a rocking chair, there are baskets, flowers, antiques, a clothesline full of sheets, and at one point, a large galvanized tub. Sound effects include birds, farm animals and vehicles being started. It is set in modern times featuring a cell phone. Minimal props and sound are needed with comedic dialogue as the focus.
Buying The Farm is a fun way to pass a summer evening. The rural roads to Drayton will set the mood. And everyone will identify with the change that comes with getting older as well as the loss of our precious farmland. It is a feel-good story with the best possible ending.
Buying the Farm continues at Drayton Festival Theatre, Drayton, until July 16, 2022, then it moves to Kings Wharf Theatre on July 21. For tickets, call Toll Free 1-855-372-9866 or visit www.draytonentertainment.com.
Photo: Alex Furber, Kelly Van der Burg, and Terry Barna. Photo by Drayton Entertainment.
Buying The Farm
By Shelley Hoffman and Stephen Sparks
Directed by Lee MacDougall
Performed by Terry Barna, Alex Furber, Kelly Van der Burg
Drayton Entertainment Production
Drayton Festival Theatre, Drayton, June 29 to July 16
Kings Wharf Theatre, Penetanguishene, July 21 to August 6
Reviewed by Vicki Stokes