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Transcript: Connie Meng Review aired Monday, August 27, 2001

The Wild Guys

at Upper Canada Playhouse, Morrisburg, ON, Fri., August 17 through Sun., September 2, 2001

THE WILD GUYS by Rebecca Shaw and Andrew Wreggitt, now running at Upper Canada Playhouse is quite an improvement over their previous productions this season. For one thing, I was delighted to see we were out of the living room and into the woods. Director Donnie Bowes has done the play before with a couple of the same cast members, and he's obviously comfortable with the material.

Speaking of the material, it has a rather thin plot concerning four men out in the woods for a weekend of male bonding. The characters are a bit stereotypical, but in the play's serious moments it's obvious that they're based in reality. The problem comes not so much from the script, which is well written, but from the interpretation of the early comedic scenes. Act I has been directed as TV sit-com slapstick and as a result the serious scenes in Act II seem out of kilter.

Mr. Bowes has directed this production using flatulence jokes, crotch jokes, and awkward group hugs to get cheap laughs. At one point he even has one of the actors drop his pants for no apparent reason. He doesn't seem to get it that comedy can come from the reality of the characters. I also don't understand why he uses rock as pre-show music. Wouldn't Rocky Mt. High or something similar be more appropriate?

John Weir turns in a solid performance and does an excellent job in the poetry scene. His story of Tony provides an exceptionally moving moment. Bruce Tubbe finally gets a chance to act instead of sweat in this production and is very good, especially in the serious moments in Act II. Both he and Mr. Weir manage to hang on to a sense of reality throughout.

Doug Tangney is a better actor than he appears. His serious moments are very real and could be quite touching. However his comic moments are played so broadly that again it doesn't quite match. Paul Stephen is better in this than in MY DARLING JUDITH, but he doesn't seem to be solidly grounded in the character and depends on too many external mannerisms.

Criticism aside, when I re-read my notes I realized I'd written, "When it's real, it's very good," about six times. That's truly the case. There are some very funny lines, which I'm not going to give away, and some very nice serious moments. At the performance I saw, which was one of their country supper evenings, most of the audience laughed a lot and seemed to really enjoy it. (If you go, don't miss the lobby display of toothbrushes that were formerly manufactured in the building and the collection of antique hats.)

On a scale of one to five, the Upper Canada Playhouse production of THE WILD GUYS gets four apples. For North Country Public Radio, I'm Connie Meng.