Those of us invited to the dress rehearsal performance (theatre without the dinner) of Never Say No were allowed to drive onto the site of the Fortress proper and park our horseless carriages under the shadow of the King’s Bastion.
Although the pub serves hardy fair, the play, written by the immensely talented Lindsay Thompson, is a light, witty, enjoyable confection of true love overcoming obstacles as war looms between the French and English in the mid-1700’s.
Elizabeth, spoiled willful daughter of a Boston merchant, has stowed away on her father’s ship with her maid, Abigail, during a trip to Louisbourg. There she meets Antoine, spoiled willful nephew of a Louisbourg merchant who is friends with Abigail’s dad, who is attended by Francois, his faithful musician friend. Both do not want anything to do with their families’ plans for their lives: arranged marriages, and a life of soul crushing “duty”.
Elizabeth and Antoine meet. She is intrigued because he wants nothing to do with her despite the romantic sparks that fly between them. Elizabeth convinces the fearful Abigail they should disguise themselves as men to follow Antoine. Antoine has his own plan to marry the simple, good-hearted fisher’s daughter, Marie Claude, to enrage his uncle enough to ship him back to his soft life in France.
This is classic romantic farce and writer Lindsay Thompson (who also plays Marie Claude) brings in all of the elements with economy and wit: star-crossed lovers, blustery parents, mistaken identity, and opportunities for physical comedy. Thompson even wrote the clever songs, which recall the sophisticated patter songs of Broadway’s 1920’s, and a touching anthem to the beauty of the Fortress. Thompson’s script also takes note of the limitations on women’s lives during this time in history without having her characters adopt any progressive attitudes beyond those of their time.
The seven person cast all gave equally energetic and captivating performances. David Hutchinson was a smooth blend of aristocratic insouciance and romantic charmer. Jenna Currie as Elizabeth started as an insufferable brat and matured into a confident likable young woman.
Thompson as the naïve, slow on the uptake Marie Claude took a stock character and made her instantly sympathetic and believable. Ciarán MacGillivray as Francois brought not only his formidable musical talent (he’s part of The Cottars and performed in The Summertime Revue this year and last) to the part of Francois, he also demonstrated an engaging stage presence and excellent comedic timing.
Nicole MacDougall as the excitable maid, Abigail, was a ball of comedic energy and her reactions to the madness around always brought at least a chuckle. Daniel Dobson as Antoine’s uncle (I thought I missed his name but apparently he doesn’t have one) played a man twice his age with great gusto and weight, as did Sandy MacLean as Elizabeth’s nameless dad. Together they were a hilarious comic duo and never failed to get big laughs with their mounting exasperation at the antics of their charges.
And they all sang wonderfully, either as soloists or in group harmony.
Although the performance space is a snug pub, director Scott Sharplin made it seem as spacious as the Boardmore or the Savoy. Besides the occasional moment of slapstick, characters had to hide behind various set pieces and nooks and crannies (some of which defied the laws of physics but never the audience’s suspension of disbelief), but the action never felt stagey or claustrophobic. He maintained a high level of energy from his entire cast, but somehow kept their performances from becoming so over the top the audience always felt the characters’ emotions were genuine and affecting.
Never Say No runs every Wednesday evening until September 1. For more details on ticket prices and menu options, and to purchase tickets, phone 733-2280 ext. 3436.