Bedtime Stories will make you laugh
 
Valerie Hill, Record staff Fri Jun 15 2012
 

It will be difficult to ever look at Terry Barna again without breaking into laughter so hard, coffee is likely to shoot out my nose. I will forever see the Waterloo actor in character as aging shock rocker, Tommy Quick, sporting tights, a crazy wig, sky-high patent leather boots and a cod piece that looks like something from a Mad Max movie. This is Barna in full blown wackiness and as he strutted onto the stage Thursday night at the opening of Bedtime Stories, even playwright Norm Foster, who happened to be sitting a couple of rows behind me, was laughing to the point of tears.

Barna took this character and made it his own, just like all five performers in the Norm Foster comedy directed by Fosterís longtime pal Chris McHarge. Over the years, McHarge has directed 12 premieres of Fosterís work so he really understands the iconic Canadian playwright, whose gift is to blend genuine human emotion with comedy. Watching a Foster play, particularly Bedtime Stories, is like being in a snow globe: one minute you are lulled by the emotion and the serenity of a scene, the next youíre shaking with laughter.

Bedtime Stories is fun on many levels with five actors, each playing three different parts. The casting is just about perfect, with one small glitch which is actually more the fault of the script. Thatís when Susan, played by the beautiful, young Karen Coughlin, comes to visit her dying high school friend, Derek, played by Barna. The two are at least 20 years apart in age. Unless one was really stupid and the other brilliant, itís unlikely they would have been in high school together. Itís a small irritation before the script quickly gets back on track.

Bedtime Stories has six scenes, all set in different bedrooms. The bed on stage doesnít change, just the dťcor, including the artwork on the wall which was an impressive feat for set designer Stephen Degenstein. The hotel rooms looked like hotel rooms, though the rich manís bedroom lacked any opulence.

The first scene ties everything together: middle-aged married couple Betsy and Lou Ballantyne need money to send their daughter, Melody, to university and so agree to have sex in a hotel room for $5,000 while radio DJ, Eddie Nighthawk Nichols, provides a play by play. Itís obvious Nicholís plan will going awry when the couple show up wearing sensible pyjamas and slippers.

   
Their attire doesnít exactly set the tone for a night of sexy romance that Nichol, played by Brad Austin, was hoping would pull his career from the gutter. Betsy, played by Alison Lawrence, is adorably naÔve, with a just a touch of sauciness. Her husband, Lou, played by Ralph Small in his Drayton debut, is a lovable lug but decidedly unsexy. Pay attention to Small. This is an actor who is able to switch into different characters without effort and heís hilarious. When Nichols pulls the plug on the entire idea of broadcasting a couple having sex on live radio, Betsy and Lou are disappointed and decide to stay in the hotel room for a romp. What they donít know is the microphone is still on and as the scenes change, the radio plays a pivotal role. Whenever anyone turns on a radio, they hear a lot of whoopee going on, creating a comic thread throughout the production.
Alison Lawrence, Ralph Small, Brad Austin, Bedtime Stories, 2012
 

In perhaps the funniest of all scenes, Small plays Davey, a bumbling cat burglar on his first job with his new pal Nick, played by Austin. The two have entered the bedroom of some rich dude, planning on robbing the guy, but poor Davey finds more than he bargains for. Small is just so good in this part, as he is in the part of Jerry, a beefy moving man with a bad back. The nuances, the physical comedy, the line delivery ó heís absolutely delicious.

Barna, as Tommy Quick, has an equally funny scene when he encounters the teenage daughter of the Ballantynes. Melody is a big fan and wants to have sex with the aging rocker, although heís much too tired and strait-laced, despite his reputation. Coughlin is wonderful in this role and is the perfect foil for Barnaís fuddy duddy old rocker.

Further mention must be given to Lawrence as both a clumsy exotic dancer and a taxi driver with a bad sense of direction. She settles into each role with a level of comfort that makes each character real and Austin as the dancerís boss, Charlie, is laugh-out-loud funny.

Bedtime Stories, which runs through June 30, has set the standard for a summer season of fun and laughter for Drayton Entertainment. Letís hope the rest of the season is as delightful.

vhill@therecord.com Bedtime Stories St. Jacobs Country Playhouse through June 30 Tickets in person at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse Box Office: 519-747-7788 or toll-free 1-855-372-9866 Online at www.stjacobscountryplayhouse.com