Now that the Jack-o-lanterns have begun turning to mush and the poppies will soon be put away for another year, Lakers can begin focusing on the last major holiday of the year. That’s right, Christmas is coming, and what better way to get into the spirit than a comical yuletide play from the Kaatza Lakeside Players?
Next week the theatre society will open its rendition of The Regifters by Robert Lynn, in which a couple re-gifts an undesirable Christmas present only to discover it’s actually worth a fortune. To get it back, they’ll do everything in their power. But it turns out they aren’t the only ones who have passed it off on someone else.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said director Erin Butler. Rehearsals started at the beginning of September and have been going full throttle ever since. “The [cast] that I have, some have quite a bit of experience. There’s some that this is their first role, or they’ve only had bit parts before, but they’re now trying pretty big roles. So I’ve been quite impressed with their dedication.”
The play, set in 1985, centres around three couples and a mother-in-law, which has meant a lot of practising in small groups.
Of those principal couples, Butler involved the actors in the set design of their respective houses. He felt that by having them think about what kind of home each person would keep, it would help the actors develop a deeper understanding of who their characters are. He’s also worked with them in making some wardrobe choices too, for the same reason.
“The most important thing is finding your character,” Butler said. “Even if you lose your lines, even if you bump into the furniture, forget your blocking — as long as you remember who you are, you won’t get lost. That will carry you through.”
The play is a “fun” piece of theatrics that has emotion and a little bit of morality, but, according to its director, is a whole lot of silliness for the most part.
For people who are not normally theatre-goers or who are completely new to the art form, The Regifters might be a good place to start.
“This isn’t intense drama, this isn’t really dark or anything. It’s just light, fluffy fun. And it’s quick. It’s fast-paced which is lovely,” said Butler. “If you’re doing a silly play, it’s got to skate right over the logical flaws that are inherent in that sort of play.”
One of the challenges he was faced with when auditioning roles in the play was the low turnout of male actors. In the end, Butler tweaked the script and changed one of the couples — a heterosexual pair in the original story — to a lesbian couple.
Butler said that while audiences in the 1980s, when his production is set, would likely have been shocked by the decision, he doesn’t expect a modern audience will bat an eye. And besides, this couple — Lori and Bridget Henshaw, played by Eva Fearon and Sally Miles — are extremely wealthy and their class status allows them to get away with just about anything, including being gay at a time when that was not considered socially acceptable.
Miles, who has been involved with the Kaatza Lakeside Players for more than 30 years, both on and off the stage, said she approached her portrayal of Bridget just as she would a straight character.
“What I decided… was I am just a partner in a marriage,” she said, although sometimes this approach has caused her slip up and use ‘he’ instead of ‘she’ when she isn’t paying attention.
Bridget is essentially a kept woman, whose relationship with Lori, while mundane, has given her a taste for the finer things in life, including Fabergé eggs.
Miles said it feels good to be treading the boards once again, and she has worked with two of her castmates before, so the familiarity is nice.
Another actor who has lots of previous experience with Kaatza Lakeside Players is Rose Bunting, who plays Mrs. Cunningham, a widow and archetypal monster-in-law who has come to live with her son Jeff (Graham Fielding) and his wife Lauren (Helen Spry), driving the latter crazy.
“Playing a character like that is always fun because you get to say or do things you would not normally,” said Bunting. “[You] try to understand where she’s coming from and then you relate it to people you’ve run into or known in your life. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone quite like that but I borrow bits from different people.”
Bunting said this play is the perfect precursor to the Christmas season, not just because of the gift-giving part of the story, but because of its ending, which she wasn’t about to reveal.
“It’s a fun play, and I hope everyone comes out and enjoys.”
The Regifters runs Nov. 17-19 and Nov. 24-26 at 8 p.m. (except the Nov. 19 performance, which is a 2 p.m. matinee). Tickets are available in Lake Cowichan at Dot’s Shoe Store and Curves, and Ten Old Books in Duncan.