White Rock Players’ current winning streak continues – at least artistically – with their current offering, The Good Game, by Quesnel playwright Roy Teed.
First-time director Lisa Pavilionis has chosen wisely in casting this locker-room comedy about four over-the-hill hockey players who figure “sure, why not?” when they’re asked to be part of an old-timers-versus-young-guns charity game.
Teed’s script is pure, character-driven sitcom, but a truly funny one, even if it doesn’t offer any breathtaking epiphanies on the human condition.
And while Pavilionis’ straightforward staging doesn’t always take full advantage of the possibilities of the medium, she has created a strong base for great ensemble playing and endearing characterization, ensuring solid laughs all the way through.
The only question about The Good Game is whether it will find its audience. Hockey fans may be more inclined to go to a game than see a play about it, while theatre enthusiasts may be put off by the subject matter.
The good news is you don’t have to be either a hockey fan or a theatre snob to enjoy this show, but the faint of heart should be warned that the language is decidedly coarse, and the unwary should be prepared to see a fair amount of ‘older-man’ anatomy as the characters change from street clothes into their uniforms.
The one downside to last Friday’s performance was the presence of some chatty audience members who evidently thought they were at a real hockey game. Vocal expressions of approval are surely welcome at a crowd-pleasing entertainment of this kind, but a running commentary is a hindrance to the enjoyment of the rest of the audience and a huge mark of disrespect for a fine group of hard-working players.
Paul Cowhig creates an empathetic, thoroughly accessible character as former team captain Zack Taylor. He’s successful in bringing the audience into the play, while skilfully sketching a portrait of a man whose personality is essentially sunny and light-hearted, even though his NHL ambitions were long ago crushed by a knee injury.
Pat McDermott is a consistent delight as punch-drunk, pessimistic goalie Charlie Boyd. It’s a part that could have been made for this actor, and he makes the most of snarling epithets, dim-witted diatribes and the revelation of a softer side that turns out to be rather charming.
Roger Meloche shows great finesse as French-Canadian player Pinkie LeVac. It’s a part that would tempt some actors to go right over the top, but Meloche manages the difficult feat of playing a stereotype without resorting to stereotype. It’s a calm, confident, realistic portrayal, creating a believably popular teammate while boosting a genuine sense of camaraderie that is important to the success of the play.
Andrew Wood also does good work as the team’s Jekyll and Hyde, C.J. MacDonald. Remembered as a savage, take-no-prisoners ‘enforcer’ on ice, C.J. has become an English teacher and a published pseudo-intellectual in the 25 years since he last strapped on skates. Wood brings out all of C.J.’s latter-day sensitivity, while successfully suggesting the angry fires that are still smoldering under the surface.
Lynne Karey-McKenna does well by an under-written role as Zack’s old flame, former radio announcer Samantha Brown, who is now a network producer creating a documentary on the championship team’s belated return to the ice. She invests the part with a sense of fun and a nice chemistry with Cowhig’s Zack and the rest of the team, suggesting a woman who could truly be “one of the guys.”
Keaton Mazurek has the voice and manner down as station CWAM’s boorish play-by-play announcer, balanced out by Dave Carroll’s good, grounded portrayal of knowing old-time colour commentator Jim.
The set design, a collaboration between Pavilionis, Colin Fotherby, Andrea Olund and assistant director Gordon Gilmour, is ambitious but has been well-achieved, and Vanessa Klein’s and Eli Williams’ team logo for the Nestor Newtons adds a nice touch.
Jasmine Hirtz’s costuming – augmented by authentic loaned equipment – is appropriate and realistic, while Gilmour’s and Tom Saunders’ sound design benefits immensely from Saunders’ musical know-how in creating a suitably cheesy small town radio station ID.
The Good Game runs until Feb. 23.