Test Drive

By Dave Carley
Performed by Andy Pogson, Avery Saltzman, Leisa Way
Directed by David Nairn
VPP and Theatre Orangeville Co-production
Victoria Playhouse Petrolia
June 13 – July 1, 2006
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Driving around the Circle of Life

Test Drive is one of those neat little plays that forces the audience think about they way life circles around. What makes this one special is the clever way it’s written. And this particular production is special, thanks to the talented cast.

Test Drive traces a family-owned American Motors dealership through three generations. The story is a salute to entrepreneurship – from car sales to a doughnut shop. We hear the tale of Earl Hughes – how as a young man he inherits his father-in-law’s car business, right through to losing his driver’s licence as an elderly man. Along life’s journey we learn all about all the other people who have influenced him.

Earl is played by Avery Saltzman who does an excellent job portraying the aging process. Hughes demonstrates the poignant moment when his wife Dorothy dies without melodrama. The character loses not only his best friend but an astute business partner.

Leisa Way is amazing as she switches between the various roles she plays: wife, temptress, daughter, granddaughter. Way gives each character her own voice and mannerisms so the audience clearly knows who she is, avoiding any potential confusion. This play is a great venue for Way to demonstrate her acting experience. She’s the original Anne in Anne of Green Gables at the Charlottetown Festival, and has travelled throughout Canada, US and Japan with that role. She has also played Peter in Peter Pan in many productions, including Huron Country Playhouse.

Andy Pogson will be remembered as Chick in VPP’s production of Confessions of a Dirty Blonde. He supplies some of the comedy as the pot-smoking son and the Mennonite son-in-law. Like Way, Pogson slips from role to role quite capably.

The set was very simple but does the job – a car seat and dashboard double as a sofa and coffee table, covering the two places where we spend most of our time. .

What I enjoyed most of all is the Canadiana in this play: We recognize Toronto landmarks, reinforce the importance of Tim Horton’s, and have a few good laughs about United Church ministers.

David Carey is a bright playwright who has given his baby-boomer audience many recognizable time lines as we journey across the generations with him – Hurricane Hazel in the 50’s, Woodstock in the 60’s, the Montreal Olympics in the 70’s and so on.

It may be a cliché but this is the kind of story where the audience will say “I laughed, I cried” as the circle of life continues and the torch is passed to the next generation. And while it is a gentle comedy, it also offers much to mull over after the curtain falls.

Test Drive continues with eight shows a week at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until July 1. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or (519) 882-1221 for tickets.


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