There is no such thing as a 60-year-old, small-town woman ‘type’

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - Colm Mag­ner

While ac­knowl­edg­ing a good por­tion of the open­ing-night au­di­ence for “The Birds and the Bees” en­joyed the show, re­viewer Colm Mag­ner says he wasn’t one of them.

I’ll ad­mit I was sus­pi­cious of the play “The Birds and the Bees,” when I read an in­ter­view with the writer Mark Craw­ford in which he said: “I re­al­ized how for­tu­nate I’ve been to have a clear sense of who it is I’m writ­ing for. In my rel­a­tively short play­writ­ing ca­reer, I’ve had the great plea­sure of pre­mier­ing work at theatres out­side the city lim­its, and the great plea­sure of writ­ing for their au­di­ences.”

“Oh, oh,” I thought. “What does he mean by ‘their au­di­ences’?”

And though he in­sists he doesn’t write “types,” he goes on to say, “I took a good look at au­di­ences ev­ery­where I went… (and thought) how ex­cit­ing would it be for all those fe­male au­di­ence mem­bers in their 60s to see some­one like them on stage as a ro­man­tic (and sex­ual) lead?”

“Like them”? Is he not now sug­gest­ing there is a 60-yearold, small-town fe­male “type”? The be­lief there are “types” of hu­man be­ings, who a play­wright then writes about to sat­isfy an au­di­ence, as if fill­ing in a paint-by-num­bers colour­ing book, seems like a recipe for dis­as­ter to me. And it turns out it is.

But if you were a good por­tion of the open­ing-night au­di­ence, you wouldn’t care a hick what I thought, clearly.

You would laugh and laugh and then give a stand­ing ova­tion (though I must add they give them rather freely on the Is­land).

So I sug­gest you see the play and make up your own mind. That’s part of the joy of be­ing a grownup.

“The Birds and the Bees” is about, well, the birds and the bees, but as ex­plained by your kinder­garten teacher.

Con­trary to some ac­counts, it is not a French farce trans­ported onto an On­tario turkey farm (lots of doors, but

sadly they don’t fly open and shut much).

It is a rather puerile com­edy with a sec­ond-act ef­fort at be­com­ing a “so­cial com­ment play” which ends rather limply.

Where all this tacked-on talk about “chaos” and char­ac­ters say­ing: “not out, but through; not sep­a­rate, but to­gether” as if they’re sud­denly chan­nelling the Dalai Lama, comes from, is be­yond me. Did I miss some­thing? They all dropped LSD at the lo­cal dance?

All you re­ally need to know is that the plot sur­rounds a lo­cal event called Turkey Day (is Mal­colm Lowry in the house?), there’s a mother who keeps bees (giv­ing the play­wright the op­por­tu­nity to talk about some­thing cur­rent, though bor­ing), and I sus­pect ev­ery­one may be happy in the end.

Di­rec­tor Ted Price does well with the pace, brings the com­pany to­gether (on a rather puz­zling set), and all the ac­tors do well wrap­ping them­selves in this ve­neer of fab­ric, which barely car­ries them to the thin con­clu­sion.

That is hard work, but Martha Irv­ing (Gail), Geneviève Steele (Sarah), Wally MacK­in­non (Earl) and Ben­ton Hartley (Ben) all have some fun mo­ments.

Hartley, par­tic­u­larly, shows his Ge­orge Brown The­atre School train­ing with his direct and hon­est ap­proach to the work.

But in the end, they can­not save this play from it­self.

Again, though, those who go for this va­pid kind of stuff may love it.

Get some fries and a burger around the cor­ner, and eat it all up.

Just don’t be sur­prised if you’re hun­gry an hour later.

Colm Mag­ner, who is a mem­ber of the Cana­dian The­atre Crit­ics As­so­ci­a­tion, has worked as a play­wright, ac­tor, di­rec­tor and teacher for more than 30 years. His col­umn, In the Wings, will ap­pear reg­u­larly dur­ing the sum­mer. To reach Colm, email inthew­ or find him at Twit­­ings61.


Ben­ton Hartley, left, and Wally MacK­in­non re­hearse a scene from “The Birds and the Bees,” play­ing at the Vic­to­ria Play­house un­til July 30.

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