Princeton’s local theatre group is like a box of chocolates.
You just never know what you are going to get.
Crimson Tine Players’ spring production Bluebird breaks new ground for the amateur troupe.
A poignant and sometimes absurd drama, the script is liberally seasoned with the F-shot. Not to worry. F*** sounds much more polite when spoken with an accent.
Most of story unfolds in a car. (They use a real car.) There are dogs. (They use real dogs.)
Some of the accents are real, as well.
Brilliantly, Director Dick Bird even interjects live commercials into the performance. That’s right. Visit Coco’s Bistro and Round the Corner Café for the town’s best F****** coffee and the best F****** fish and chips, respectively.
Bird said he chose the play, by Simon Stephens, because he has long wanted to present Princeton with a modern English drama and he recognized the truth in the tale.
“I used to be a cab driver and this is exactly what it’s like.”
Bluebird unfolds the life of London cabbie Jimmy, played ably by O’Neil Loza, as reflected in the sad and bizarre conversations he has with his customers – drunks, prostitutes, and backseat philosophers.
Jimmy is a stoic character with limited engagement, but each sketch, or “fare,” inches his story along like a taxi crawling through rush hour on the A127.
Casting the play was a challenge, said Bird, as he sought as much authenticity in manner and voice as possible.
“When I put out the notice for auditions, I had to round up people. I had to scrounge all the corners of Princeton.”
His search for accented actors led to a couple of platinum finds for Crimson Tine.
Bird recounted how he tracked down Andy English, a Hedley man he once met in a pub whose accent and personality made an impression.
Late of Surrey – the actual Surrey, not to be confused with that place on the Lower Mainland – English was working at his mill job when he was called to the front office.
“I asked [there] if they had an English man named Andy and they got him up and I told him: you are in a play.”
It was inspired digging. English is especially believable as the not-quite-what-you-would-expect bouncer who finds his way into Bluebird; which is the name of Jimmy’s car.
Another local actor making an important debut is Karen Meadows, who tackles the challenging personality of Jimmy’s wife Clare.
Claire is by far the most demanding role of the show, and Meadows constructs her effortlessly, conveying conflicting emotions with clarity (and a real accent).
She does justice to the dialogue and never wastes a line.
Bluebird, she says, smells like dead people. “The dead smell of people still alive.”
Meadows is an actor everyone should hope to see in future Crimson Tine productions.
Bird, Dayton Wells, Victoria Gibb, Heather Anderson (who also produces) Shawn Cavanough, James Henry and Nichole Loza round out the interesting cab riders who share time with Jimmy.
A hallmark of Crimson Tine Productions is fabulous sets, and Bluebird does not disappoint. Well, there’s the car on the stage for one thing. Princeton newcomers Tansy Jie Xu and Asuka Takatsgi painted an effective – almost mural worthy – backdrop. Hopefully they, as well, will be back.
Chris Sodden and Nathan Anderson head up lights and sound. The play’s musical interludes, heavy on 1950s rock and roll, are well chosen and timed, and help draw the cab-based vignettes together.
Bluebird is playing at Riverside Theatre March 30, 31 and April 1. Doors open at 6 p.m. and curtain is at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors and $40 per family. There is a matinee Saturday April 1 at 2 p.m. and tickets are $5.