PETER COLLEY Playwright-Screenwriter
Hilarious evening thrills and chills
Suspense, intrigue humour; sheer delight
by JOANNA MANNING
For The Tribune
When The Reaper Calls it’s definitely time to get your tickets, to and evening of devilish hilarity, intellectual philosophising and entertaining thrills. Coming out of the theatre into streets shrouded in mist, seemed the inevitable finale to an evening full of twists and turns, Halloween-style pranks that were downright scary, ghosts, murder and mayhem.
A chilling mix of suspense and dark humour, “When The Reaper Calls” by Canadian playwright Peter Colley, is one of the best plays the Showboat Festival Theatre has done for quite a while. Considering some of the good productions that have been presented in recent years that makes it a must-see for anyone who appreciates a hearty laugh spiced with intrigue and deception. Last nights opening performance was punctuated with more laughter than I have heard in the theatre for a long time, and if this is a taste of the after life, I’ll book my passage.
Colley has taken an innately simple story, wrapped it up in authentic philosophical dialogue and given us a riot of edge-of-seat happenings. each more unexpected, and more hilarious than the last. A master of language and plot he pulls us along, bewitched by the crazy turn of events until the final high-five ending.
Two philosophy professors, long time friends, colleagues, academic rivals and practical jokers, are on holiday with their wives in a remote rustic cottage. Victor and Dora Pierce swirl through life like a tempest, she grits her teeth at his every remark, suspects him of another affair and loses no opportunity to taunt him. Colleen Brandstater is the fey, artistic second wife of Harlan, she restores native masks and studies herbal tore while he reveals an increasingly unemotional character, who answers the question “Do you love me?” with a full-blown lecture, turning on the definition of love.
Harlan has become a Stoic philosopher, a pacifist, searching for the truth and concerned about the afterlife. Victor, a hedonist, is only interested in this life, the crazier the better, the more pranks the merrier. Honestly wanting to restore his friend to something of his former silly self, he plans a cruel prank. hoping to shock Harlan out of his complacency. Everyone is capable of killing under the right circumstances he declares, and sets out to create the right circumstances.
Just what these are, who trounces who, philosophically speaking, where Kubler-Ross, Socrates and Nietzsche fit in, the characteristics of ghosts and the amazing properties of aconite, you will want to find out for yourself.
Be assured there’s no a dry or dull moment in this philosophy course. Colley has written a tight, beautifully sculpted script that will keep you guessing, and laughing until the end, and beyond. He touches on love, fidelity, the supernatural and jealousy, and holds your attention through deep philosophic arguments as much as tales of the heart. There’s lust the right quotient of total farce, running amok, screams and gunshots to make this an absolute delight.
The four characters are well-established in the first scene and develop as the action proceeds, allowing us to believe in them as real people with real problems. Even with the academic talk, this play is action all the way.
As Victor, Clyde Witham is a perfect mix of arrogant academic and ultimate schoolboy, bouncing around the stage. Earnest and tongue-tied in matters of love Shawn Devlin is appealingly confused as Harlan. Colleen Brandstater is played with charm and high spirits by Amy Walsh and Marcia Tratt turns in a strong performance as Dora. Among all the comedy, Officer MeGuire, played at a run by Rey Baecher is in some danger of going over the top.
Deft, accurate, sensitive directing by Allison Grant brings out she human poignancy as well as the zany humour and keeping it all tied together and flowing.
This is highly recommended and would get four stars, if we gave out stars. There’s only 10 more performances of this production. Do your darndest to attend one.