Ami­able play short on high points

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Ran­dall King

WITH two ac­tors play­ing mul­ti­ple roles, a ru­ral set­ting and a mildly pa­tron­iz­ing tone, this re­al­ity-in­spired com­edy by Cal­gary play­wright Ken Cameron feels a tad like a en­try in Dan Nee­dles’ farm-friendly the­atri­cal fran­chise with an un­seemly in­fu­sion of drug traf­fick­ing: Wing­field Goes to Pot. Not that mar­i­juana is ever ac­tu­ally con­sumed on­stage. Hardly a head com­edy, this rus­tic mis­ad­ven­ture aims squarely for the heart. Cameron was in­spired by an in­ci­dent that touched his ag­ing par­ents. They rented their ru­ral farm­house to a man claim­ing to be a WestJet pi­lot look­ing for a lit­tle coun­try com­fort. In fact, the man used the house as a grow-op for an in­door mar­i­juana plan­ta­tion. Be­cause such op­er­a­tions re­quire a com­bi­na­tion of heat and hu­mid­ity, grow-op prop­er­ties are prone to toxic black mould, ren­der­ing them un­fit for hu­man habi­ta­tion. The property was the cou­ple’s re­tire­ment nest egg, and such a prospect was po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing. Cameron pri­mar­ily uses that plot thread to ex­am­ine the re­la­tion­ship of sun­glasses hide his shifty mo­ti­va­tions. The com­edy has its in­ven­tive mo­ments, as when An­niko uses a crop of sun­flow­ers to il­lus­trate how the tightknit ru­ral com­mu­nity bands to­gether to put pres­sure on a re­cal­ci­trant in­sur­ance ad­juster. (Brian Per­chaluk’s el­e­gant gar­den set de­sign is put to in­ter­est­ing use here.) And An­niko and McAr­ton are ad­mirably game when it comes to por­tray­ing the other char­ac­ters who fall into the cou­ple’s or­bit, of­ten trad­ing off on play­ing a sin­gle char­ac­ter as re­quired. One such char­ac­ter is the cop who breaks the bad news to the cou­ple about the af­ter-ef­fects of the growop. Played by ei­ther ac­tor, he is an es­pe­cially heinous cliché, armed with cof­fee and a dough­nut, and spout­ing mar­i­juana syn­onyms like some car­i­ca­ture out of a ’70s un­der­ground comic book. Di­rec­tor Arne MacPher­son gets no points for subtlety here. Granted, subtlety is not the com­edy’s strong suit. Cameron ul­ti­mately de­cided the story here would ul­ti­mately serve as a homage to his par­ents, and it feels duly du­ti­ful, af­fec­tion­ate and un­crit­i­cal. It’s a nice gift. Dra­mat­i­cally speak­ing, how­ever, it amounts to stems and seeds and pre­cious lit­tle bud.

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