Outside the tavern, thunder boomed like the cannon on the King’s Bastion and seagulls swooped and screeched, but inside everyone was snug and warm waiting for the show to start.
The Sum Of Love is this summer’s dinner theatre presentation at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site and, based on the dress rehearsal I attended, it is a wonderfully funny, spirited, audience-friendly production.
The clever script by Nicole MacDougall has much in common with previous Louisbourg shows: meddling parents are trying to satisfy their own agendas by marrying off their children which comically thwarts the course of true love (which we know from A Midsummer Night’s Dream), never runs smoothly, and is occasionally required to burst into song. And this being 18th century Louisbourg, social status and, perhaps most importantly, money play a big part in any successful marital arrangement.
As the two young lovers unable to verbalize their true feelings, Jenna Currie (Lyra), and David Hutchinson (Claude – rhymes with “clod”), were a delightful pair. Currie has a wonderful singing voice and created a spirited, charming character. Hutchinson, also has an excellent singing voice, and made Claude’s inhibitions funny without making him seem like a wimp.
Eric Letcher, as Lyra’s Papa, was a comic delight in a fop’s white-face make-up (with darling, cherry-coloured beauty spots) who carries his own plush cushioned seat wherever he goes. He wants to marry his daughter off for social advantage, but also to plan the event and be the centre of attention. The ever versatile Lindsay Thompson, as a free-spending, slightly deranged dowager scheming to marry Lyra to her own dissolute son, was also hilarious even when she didn’t know which end of the pistol to point.
Daniel Dobson, as Christoph (Thompson’s character’s son), was extremely funny as a surly, self-involved “charmer”, an upper class slacker concerned only for his own pleasure. And completing the cast was Ciarán MacGillivray who not only displayed excellent comic timing as Fabian, Christoph’s servant and romantic advisor, but provided the musical accompaniment, vocal arrangements, and his own fine voice to the proceedings.
Aaron Corbett’s direction pitched the action at a fast pace but never descended into burlesque or became so over the top that the audience lost their connection to the characters. In a comparatively confined space, he kept his actors on the go and elicited terrific physical performances from all of them. And he also used every opportunity to acknowledge the presence of the audience (it is a very intimate performing space) and involve them as much as possible in the action of the play.
MacDougall’s script is witty and smart and, while it allows itself to be played very broadly, there are no cheap and easy punchlines. Each character is well-defined and comes by their laughs through the force of their personality. MacDougall is also a gifted lyricist: at times sharp and funny, and at others poignant and poetic.
Performances for The Sum Of Love are every Wednesday evening, from July 11 to August 29. Tickets are $48 per person and are available by phoning (902) 733-3548 or at fortressoflouisbourg.ca.