Players' show a fun, charming farce

If the packed and enthusiastic house this past Friday night at the Mercury Theatre was any indication, the arts are alive and well in the Cowichan Valley.

The good news? The cast of the Mercury Players' Maggie's Getting Married, a family farce by Canadian playwright Norm Foster, were clearly having as much fun as their audience, and drew laugh after laugh from the supportive crowd. The play takes place in the Duncan family's kitchen the night before youngest daughter Maggie Duncan (Corrina Cornforth) marries smarmy realtor Russell (Alex Gallacher) after a whirlwind romance.

Maggie's big sister, bombshell Wanda (Marisa McLennan), is home for the big day with her latest boytoy, actor Axel (Brandon Newall), who mother-of-thebride Cass (Laurel Hibbert) is less than thrilled with.

Father of the bride Tom (Robert Sullivan), a wealthy dentist, is preoccupied with sex and mortality (not necessarily in that order) and concerned that his baby girl may be marrying the wrong man for the wrong reasons. As the family and their hangers-on get progressively more tipsy following Maggie and Russell's rehearsal dinner, Wanda comes to the sobering realization that she and her sister's fiancé are more than intimately acquainted.

Cornforth is perfectly cast as the sweet but selfaware Maggie and had some particularly lovely father-daughter moments with Sullivan, who was probably the most comfortable of the actors onstage. Sullivan and Hibbert had great chemistry as a couple whose passion has dimin-ished from a forest fire to a "small grassfire" but who remain central to each others' existence.

Gallacher and Newall both drew laughs in their roles as the Duncan sisters' respective squires, but the real charm of this show comes from some of the Duncan family's moments alone in the kitchen - Wanda and Maggie tickling their mother out of her "hostess-withthe-mostess" neuroses, Tom tenderly offering his daughter a getaway ride from the altar, Wanda wrestling with her own demons and her desire to protect her little sister at all costs.

Norm Foster's play offers some great one-liners and comic twists.

Gregg Perry's direction keeps the pacing fluid and light - cast members are constantly entering in one door and out the other, in true farcical style. While the play deals with some serious themes, such as the changing nature of relationships, the existence of God and family values, comedy wins out over all and audiences walked away having had a good laugh and a great night out.

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