This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Mariposa Arts Theatre opened The Play That Goes Wrong Thursday evening at the Opera House.

I would like to meet the person who could recite what the plot is. I couldn’t tell. But then, one doesn’t need to be able to follow along to enjoy the show, or to laugh.

It’s in the title It goes wrong from the start. The event the play revolves around is the opening scene death of the lord of the manner, Charles Haversham (Spencer Hipwell). That isn’t even the opening.

Let’s back up a bit. What we are seeing is the world’s most dangerous theatrical company. The play (proper) starts about 10 minutes before curtain (so get there earlier than normal and be in your seat) with the ‘stage crew’ (who aren’t) trying to fix the set and place props in full view of us. Then the president of the local theater company doing the play (Ian Munday, who also plays the inspector) welcoming the audience the way a rank amateur of an inept company can. Then Charles dies.

According to the book and characters Robert (Josh Halbot and Sandra (Laura Bainborough) he’s been murdered, or suicided. We saw neither happen, it looks like he just croaked.

The comedy comes from props not being where they are supposed to be, not working, or tasting not like anticipated. The set literally falls apart throughout the play. Characters take each other out by not being in place during the wild, amateurish histrionics. Stage hands fill in to read lines. Actors forget lines. And somehow it makes to the ending on the script before ending in catastrophe before scene one is done.

Mathew Peart and Josh Halbot in MAT’s The Play That Goes Wrong (Photo by Deb Halbot)

The promo material from the playwrights website refers to Monthy Python meets murder mystery. Yes, the absurd happens nonstop throughout in Python fashion. There is only one line pilfered from Python, it’s in the sword duel and you’ll know it when it happens. It really is a feat to write this stuff with its intricate line delivery and stage choreography.

It’s also a feat to design and build a set like this that malfunctions so precisely and spectacularly.  That would be Brian Halbot and his construction crew’s department. Brian even has a small role in the play, which he performs in a pinch and miserably. It’s miracle the set fails when it’s supposed to before it all crashes down.

The cast, while making the intended mistakes from the page, have to make no mistakes with their choreography. Getting bonked on the head for real is a risk in this play. There is also a physical, sight gag component to many minutes, which again, if actors are not on their dots, can go from theatrical to instant darkness, or long term hobbling.

Along the way 4 ‘murderers’ emerge all based on the kind of evidence and conclusions that make  American cops look like geniuses, but with less lethal results. So you don’t really need to know what happened. I defy to you to know. And if you do, please tell me.

Also because of the nature of the set and movement, MAT could not possibly do this in the Studio Theatre as they normally would for a spring production. Instead of the 100 people able to see it, they had 300. They are doing particularly well with ticket sales with most performances half to 3/4s sold of the 400 seats available on the main floor for all dates.

The play runs to February 18 with matinees on Sundays.

Gospel and Blues

Lance Anderson did it again. The 12th annual Mariposa Folk Festival Gospel and blues show sold out and the performances given were outstanding.

The show opened with Lance at the Hammond B3 and Jordan John on drums. Lance demonstrated why he is one of the top B3 layers in the world; you just don’t get to see that every day. Jordan played well until the last third of the song, then showed he has mastered how to move the sticks with the kind of control and effortlessness not often seen.

Jordan brought the bassist, Mick Marrata and drummer, Ahmed Mitchel, from his own band; Mick joined Lance and Jordan for a few tunes, which included Ronnie Douglas half way through the set. When Ronnie was on stage Jordan played either piano or B3 and Mitchel took over drums.

Ronnie Douglas

Ronnie did Key to the Highway and Rock with Me Tonight, but did not stay onstage until the first half finale. When Ronnie exited, Jordan picked up a guitar. While Ronnie is one of the great blues guitarists, Jordan is no slouch. The singing though. Holy cow, Jordan should be a world-wide star across several genres. Damn he’s good.

Kenny Wayne replaced Ronnie on stage and did a couple tunes. Have you ever seen a pianist do a solo and only play three repeated notes for a minute or more – and make you like it, to the point of almost 700 people applauding enthusiastically? You should have been there, it happened.

Everyone was back before halftime to play Billy Preston’s version of Swing Low Sweet Chariot – retitled Swing Down Sweet Chariot. I’ve heard Lance do this one before and it’s not the gospel tune you think it is, it cooks.

They came back for the second half with another Billy Preston tune, Outa Space. The show also closed with a Billy Preston tune, You Are So Beautiful. If you love the sound and great playing of a B3 organ, there cannot be enough of Billy Preston’s music being played, and you need someone as skilled as Lance to make it memorable.

Second half highlights included Ronnie’s fantastic cover of Take Me To The River, which I’m sure many in the audience were thinking, is that…? Yes, but this version was based on the original by Al Green and not the Talking Heads version. Ronnie really owned this performance.

One of the most stunning moments of the concert was when Kenny Wayne came on stage in the first half wearing a sequined brown jacket; tiny little sequins which added a shimmer to the look rather than an explosion of reflected light. At 80, soon, his dress was an old school, ‘I’m going to look good for this gig,’ statement. After the show he was in the green room wearing a cross-hatched, pinstripe, sequins in the stripes, jacket that gave one the feeling you were in the presence of someone important, which he is.

Prakash John was in and out of the band throughout the show. When he was in I couldn’t stop watching him. He’s played on so many albums I own (and you own too), it would have been silly to not watch him play. I noticed a similarity to the playing style of Tower of Power’s late bassist, Francis Rocco Prestia, who I’d wager was influenced by Prakash.

I hope Mariposa never ends this series and that Lance produces it. It’s a shame we only get it once a year.

While we’re here, tickets for Mariposa’s next spring concert with Boreal (Katherine Wheatley, Tannis Slimmon, Angie Nussey) at St. Paul’s Centre March 9 are on sale now. Also, you don’t need tickets for the annual audition concert, at St. Paul’s April 27, just mark your calendar.

The Shorts

  • Things are picking up again, so we’re back to splitting the column into two parts. Check back tomorrow for more.
  • Couchiching Craft Brewing has Cam Galloway and Feb. 9 and Stephanie Barnard Feb. 10; Cassie Dasilva is in Feb. 14… Quayle’s Brewery has James Gray playing Feb. 9; Cam Galloway Feb. 10… Steph Dunn is at Lake Country Grill Feb 7 and 14…… the Hog ‘N Penny has Scott Olgard playing Feb. 5; Scott is at Picnic Feb 11… Kensington’s has Shawn Steinhart (Stuart’s son) in Feb. 9; Jakob Pearce is in Feb. 10… St. Paul’s Centre has a Pub Night Feb. 16 with Meredith Warboys playing music; $10 at the door.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: Part of the cast of Mariposa Arts Theatre’s current production, The Play That Goes Wrong, at the Opera House – back to front – Kristen Jones, Shannon Howes, Spencer Hipwell, Josh Halbot, Ian Munday and Laura Bainborough (photo by Deb Halbot)

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