Dry Streak

Ben Sanders as Charlie.

Ben Sanders as Charlie.
Written by Leeann Minogue
Directed by Rona Waddington
Performed by Charlotte Gowdy, Alison Jutzi, Darren Keay, Brian McKay, Ben Sanders, Lorna Wilson, Sandy Winsby.
Grand Theatre, London
October 20 to November 7, 2009
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Dry Streak creates comedy
out of city/country clashes

The Grand Theatre’s latest main stage offering, Dry Streak, is more fun than naked rain dancing. Shown for the first time outside Saskatchewan, Dry Streak is written by Leann Minogue, herself a product of Saskatchewan farm life. It’s Corner Gas for the live stage, with a little more wit.

John Richards moves home to work with his parents, Peter and Olive, on the family farm, bringing along his well-travelled, vegetarian, city-girlfriend, Kate. Right away Peter is leery of her supposed sophistication. It’s summer 1988 and Saskatchewan is very hot and dry. One night at the local country & western bar, Kate, tired of all the talk of drought, has one drink too many and vows to run naked down Main Street if it rains. Local weekly newspaper editor Rob Armstrong hears her promise, and publishes it on the front page. The news spreads quickly; picked up by CP wire service, it travels across the country. The story grows with CBC TV coverage. (Peter doesn’t think the new anchor, Peter Mansbridge, is going to last.) Peter and Olive are completely humiliated with all the publicity, but John’s sister, Denise, decides to put all the hype to work. She wants to sell tickets for Kate’s “streak” as a fundraiser for the local arena, to keep her kids in hockey. Brother Charlie, a disc jockey for a Saskatoon radio station garners more publicity, culminating in his play-by-play of the naked run. Suffice to say, it rains, but you will have to attend to learn the circumstances.

Lorna Wilson is wonderful as farm wife Olive Richards. Wilson allows the character to grow and develop as the show progresses. She is hilariously funny while remaining understated, keeping the character completely believable. She is just like your best friend’s mom who makes the little sandwiches for the United Church Women’s group.

Brian McKay is good as Peter Richards, the grumpy farmer who doesn’t understand why his son has to bring home a city girl, or how his other son prefers being radio announcer to farming. McKay is suitably baffled by any changes that his character has to face, and the humour comes with his reluctance to accept anything new.

Charlotte Gowdy makes an interesting Kate Allen, the city-girl vegetarian. Gowdy handles the role well – it might be easier to make the city girl look like a buffoon when she doesn’t know the rural ways, but Gowdy allows Kate to develop as the play progresses. It’s a fine balancing act to get laughs while not letting Kate seem stupid, and Gowdy is successful.

Darren Keay is good as John Richards, the young man who comes home to farm. Keay appeared at the Grand in Einstein’s Gift and Dancing with Poppies, and in summer 2007 he had the lead in the Blyth Festival’s Rev. Jonah.

Alison Jutzi is excellent as Denise Smith, sister of John and Charlie. She keeps the audience laughing about her parenting skills, when it comes to getting her kids’ attention.

Sandy Winsby as Rob Armstrong, the local newspaper editor, is completely believably. His gentle nudges move the plot forward.

Ben Sanders in the role of Charlie Richards is excellent. He plays the radio disc jockey perfectly, and his play-by-play of the naked run is the show’s highlight. Ben is an alumnus of the Grand Theatre’s High School Projects and this role allows him to show his skills and experience.

The Grand has done well with attention to detail on the set. The farmhouse kitchen is very 1980s and the town’s main street is clearly represented. The audience is treated to interesting Saskatchewan fun facts before the show and 1988 trivia during intermission.

The only criticism of this production is in the timing: obviously the cast is not prepared for the number of long laughs they get. Too often the conversation moved forward before the audience settled, and the next funny line was missed. The characters need to develop things to do as the laughter rolls across the theatre, without having to hit the next line so soon. Pacing will obviously improve with future productions.

Farmer versus city girl humour will always generate plenty of comedy. In this production, the audience witnesses the growth of character along with the hilarity. And while we expect to see Kate grow into rural life, we are pleasantly surprised to see Olive develop into a more exciting and interesting person.

The excitement builds in act II culminating with a surprise ending and plenty of uproarious action. The opening night audience offered the cast a long standing ovation, hoping they would return to the stage for more bows.

Dry Streak continues at the Grand Theatre in London until November 7. Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593.


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