Opening Night, play within another play

The Royal Canadian Theatre Company's production of Opening Night at The ACT in Maple Ridge this weekend.

Pat McDermott plays Jack and Emma Greenhalgh plays Ruth in the Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s first production of the season

Pat McDermott plays Jack and Emma Greenhalgh plays Ruth in the Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s first production of the season

The Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s first production for its 10th anniversary, Opening Night, promises an evening full of laughter, in more ways than one.

Ruth Tisdale and her husband Jack are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.

She has won tickets to the opening night performance of a new Canadian play.

However, Jack would rather spend the evening watching the seventh game of the World Series on television.

Needless to say, Jack ends up being dragged to the event. While they are mingling with guests in the VIP lounge before the show, Jack recognizes somebody from television.

A series of hilarious events ensues that reaches its peak with the performance of what could only be one of the worst plays ever written.

“It’s such an insightful piece,” director Ellie King said about the play, written by Canadian playwright Norm Foster, who has penned over 50 plays since 1982.

“Mr. Foster has a wonderful, insightful eye,” continued King.

She had three criteria when picking a play to kick off the season for the company.

She wanted to put on a Canadian play to coincide with Canada’s 150th birthday celebration this year.

She was also looking for a comedy because the company has vowed to do comedies for the next three years in response what their audience has told them they wanted.

Thirdly, King has never put on a Foster play, and when she read this one, she said it was just too funny.

The play is an exploration of relationships and how they are changed by one night at the theatre.

The first relationship is between a husband and wife, who have been together for 25 years.

“The marriage has grown not stale as such, but a little too comfortable,” explained King.

“They are traveling along parallel tracks but not necessarily meeting,” she continued.

Ruth is one of the few genuinely nice people in the play, actor Emma Greenhalgh said of the character she plays.

“She is the typical house wife whose kids have moved out and she is dragging her husband along with her. It is a big deal for her to go to the opening night of a play,” continued Greenhalgh.

Ruth is the typical empty-nester who just wants to rekindle the spark in her marriage.

“But, she is sort of sucked into the pretentiousness of the theatre and her philistine husband has no concept of culture.”

Greenhalgh added that married women in the audience will easily connect with Ruth.

“Her role starts light, but she has very poignant moments in the play.”

Pat McDermott, who plays Jack, has performed this role before in his 20-year career.

“It reminds me of me before I got interested in theatre. He’s most of my buddies. I know this guy because I’ve lived with him all  my life,” he said.

McDermott thinks more men will get a kick out of his character and the fact that everything that can go wrong will.

“People who aren’t used to the theatre and don’t know how to act,” he said, describing his character, Jack, as a fish out of water.

But there are other relationships explored in the play, as well, like that of the director and his long-time partner.

“It also looks at that kind of relationship which is brittle, and it’s violent, far from being comfortable. It’s volatile and constantly veering in one direction or the other,” explained King, adding that there are also three other characters, all of whose lives are changed by this one night at the theatre.

And since the play is about the theatre, King wanted the audience to be a part of that experience, too.

Some of the performers will be ushers in the audience pre-show. You will see the crew setting up and the stage won’t go black for set changes. The actors will also take their places in the stage light so there will be no sudden reveal.

“It’s sort of like theatre within theatre,” said King, comparing it to the wooden Russian dolls that have one inside the other.

“You’ve got the envelope of the play, which is what we’ve created,” said King. “And within that, there’s the play. And then within the play, there’s the play within the play ,which is the most god-awful thing written, you’ve ever seen in your life.”

Opening Night takes place at 7:30 p.m. March 24 and 25 with a 3:30 p.m. matinee on March 25 at the ACT, 11944 Haney Place in Maple Ridge.

To purchase tickets call 604-476-2787 or go to theactmapleridge.org.