Play On forces actors and audiences to wear their thinking caps

Cast of CSS’ Play On includes Joseph Pimenta (left) as Henry and Lord Dudley, Amanda Wise as Louise, and Jonah Lironi as Saul and Dr. Forbes.  - Peter W. Rusland
Cast of CSS’ Play On includes Joseph Pimenta (left) as Henry and Lord Dudley, Amanda Wise as Louise, and Jonah Lironi as Saul and Dr. Forbes.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Actors and audiences should stay sharp during Cowichan High’s Play On, a play within a play opening Wednesday.

Veteran Cowichan actor Tom Browne is familiar with plays within plays. He was production manager for Kiss Me Kate, South Island Musical Society’s 2004 hit.

“The biggest challenge is for the actors,” he said of director Rosalynd Roome’s romantic-comedy at Cow High’s Quamichan campus.

“They have to be themselves in one portion of the play, then very different character in the other portion.

“In Kiss Me Kate, the love interests in the play, and those in their private lives were in conflict, which really made the play outstanding.”

Play On traces a troupe trying to stage a play, despite maddening interference from a haughty author who keeps revising the script. Act one is a rehearsal of the dreadful show. Act two is the dreadful dress rehearsal.

The final act is the actual performance. Anything that can go wrong, does.

And when the author gives a speech on the state of modern theatre during curtain calls, the audience should get a madcap climax.

Browne suggested a program outline to help folks follow the zany rom-com’s twists.

Furthermore, “make sure the cast has two faces — sometimes it’s very difficult being the actor, and their personna.”

Play On should test Roome’s 12-member cast.

“Most of these students haven’t been on stage before, but that’s why we’re here — to learn and give them an opportunity,” she said, confident in her keen actors.

“The amount of effort they’ve put in is astonishing, in a short period of time.

“I want them to get more confidence, and see what they’re capable of.”

So does Grade 11 actress Cenna Parlee.

She’s cast as flapper Violet Embray, depicting Diana Lassister in the play within a play.

“There isn’t really a conflict here; it’s a full comedy,” she said of the “play that goes completely wrong” due to script high jinks.

Humour hops from that chaos.

“What makes it funny is the confusion about the lines being rewritten.”

Characters lend laughs too.

“Polly’s an over-the-top on-the-spot kind of actress, but she’s overweight,” said Parlee. “Saul Watson (Jonah Lironi) is an actor who is “a sarcastic fellow who constantly makes bad jokes about Polly, and that makes you laugh.”

Then there are romantic antics, including those between naive, flirt Violet and Billy.

“They start having a thing for each other no one really knows about.

“Violet’s very much a ditz; she’ll zone out, or do something stupid that would embarrass a regular person.”

Play On has no real moral, but the experienced song-and-dance pupil indicated it lampoons ego.

“The entire farce is the fact some playwrights might get too enthusiastic when writing — that’s why there are so many rewrites.”

Parlee echoed Browne’s idea about gaining a thespian’s brain.

“I’m learning how to embrace multi characters into one.

“I want viewers to leave with a huge smile. Even having the script, we have to control ourselves and not laugh.”

Browne understood.

“Have a good time,” he advised. “If you’re not enjoying it, it’s not worth doing.”


Your ticket

What: Play On

When: Dec. 4 to 7, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Cowichan Secondary School’s Quamichan campus, Beverly Street

Tickets: $10, $8 students and seniors.

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