Optimistically Cautious

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Theatre: "Dreamland Saturday Nights"

May and I then attended a matinee of David Belke's remounted Dreamland Saturday Nights at the Varscona. From the website:

"When two lonely hearts meet at an old time repertory cinema, they discover that where one sees colour and romance in a search for love and adventure, the other analyses lighting, direction and camera angles. The play follows the growth of their relationship over a series of Saturday nights as they watch old movies together, eat popcorn and fall in love - with a little help from their friends, Bogart, Davis and Astaire."

Just as nostalgic as the description portrays, the play was a classic Belke romantic comedy. I loved the use of old trailers and concession advertisements to set the tone as the audience seated themselves (though Shadow Theatre's own trailers could have been better put together - I thought they were fake until I looked in the program). The set was as functional as it was pretty - the designer found great replicas of theatre seats and a concession stand to accompany the whimsical pastel colored swirl backdrop, evoking the desired feeling of innocence and push for simpler times. The stage also incorporated a clever sheer movie 'screen,' to distinguish between the film realm and reality.

Like most Belke plays, the supporting cast stole the show. Patrick Howarth, the only actor who appeared in the original, was fantastic. His impersonations were spot-on (and he can dance!), with his Jack Nicholson imitation garnering the most laughs. Aimee Beaudoin, playing the "wicked" gold digger, was so fabulous in her oozing indifference and cruelty that I was left wondering how it could have been possible that I'd never seen her before. In particular, her maturity as an actress shone through in her Bette Davis masquerade. Angela Christie was well-cast as Dorothy, the cute and shy female lead, but I'm still unsure about Chris Bullough. Although better this time around than in Teatro's House of Cats earlier this season, he didn't completely convince me that he was remotely torn about his decision of tearing down the Dreamland. The program didn't list the original cast, but as Chris Fassbender was a Belke favorite while he was still in town, I couldn't help but think Fassbender's ability to juggle quirkiness with heartfelt sincerity would have better suited the role.

As a classic movie fan, I'm embarrassed to say I couldn't recognize all of the allusions (the buck stopped with Citizen Kane and Empire Strikes Back for me), but I could relate to Dorothy's sentiment of wanting to have a bit of both Oz and Kansas in her life. So despite its shortcomings, Dreamland Saturday Nights was an enjoyable piece of fantasy, comedy, and romance.



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