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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Meanwhile, back at the ranch … comedy ensues

Retiring from the farm to the city, a couple finds everything isn’t as it appears in Drayton theatre’s production of Harvest

Heading into retirement, a couple opts to sell the farm and move into the city. They do, however, keep the farmhouse, renting it out to someone they see as a nice young man. Their property becomes a marijuana grow-op, making them unwitting participants in a world completely alien to them – one that provides plenty of laughs to those watching Harvest, now on stage at the Drayton Festival Theatre.

Penned by Canadian playwright Ken Cameron, Harvest is based on real-life events that befell his parents. While fictionalized, many of the same emotions are at play – this was the house where the author grew up, after all.

An unfortunate series of issues – financial stress, children who have no interest in carrying on the family business, and a rental agreement gone very wrong – unfold as Allan and Charlotte Duncanson seek their golden retirement. Having run the four-generation farm their entire 42-year marriage, circumstances are now forcing them to retire to a condo in the city. In order to make ends meet and hold onto the home where memories and traditions live, they rent their farmhouse to a young man who claims to be an airline pilot. They think they’ve found the perfect tenant.

Despite the circumstances, Harvest is an endearing depiction of the playwright’s lovingly-quarrelsome parents. Cameron weaves humour, narrative, and fact into the story as he explores the state of agriculture and independent farming in Canada, the influence of drug gangs on unsuspecting people, and the notions of aging and retirement.

The circumstances may not be run-of-the-mill, but the grow-op is really just a catalyst. Allan (Rob McClure) and Charlotte (Gabrielle Jones) actually have no clue what’s happened to their house when they return to find it a mess and covered in mold, until they call in the authorities. Thus begins an unexpected, but hilarious, adventure.

“It’s not unusual for people to sell the land or rent out the house. The unusual thing is that it’s turned into a grow-op,” said executive producer Max Reimer of the fish-out-of-water element that lends the play its humour.

The comedy extends from the situation and the back-and-forth of a long-married couple. And, given that two actors play all the characters, the audience has a lot of fun with the rapid-fire change from one character to another – the Hungarian neighbour, pushy real estate agent, hard-nosed insurance broker, gossipy church ladies, the cynical police detective … not to mention a ferocious guard dog.

“It’s really a thrill to watch them do it. Rob McClure and Gabrielle Jones are really at the top of their games,” said Reimer of the performances.

Gabrielle Jones and Rob McClure rehearse a scene from Harvest, now on stage at the Drayton Festival Theatre. The show runs until July 30. [Submitted]

Jones’ résumé includes several seasons at the Stratford and Shaw Festivals, as well as the national tour of Mamma Mia!, among other notable roles. She previously appeared in Sexy Laundry, The Crazy Time and Brighton Beach Memoirs for Drayton Entertainment. McClure is also a familiar face, having appeared in The Odd Couple, Looking, Deathtrap, How the Other Half Loves, The Drawer Boy, and Caught in the Net, as well as in last season’s It Runs in the Family.

They make it fun for the audience – “The story brings you in” – in a way that people can relate, from the trusting naiveté of Allan and Charlotte to the suspicious neighbour, says Reimer.

“Even the perpetrators, we kinda get them – we see the humanity in the foul play.”

It’s the human elements that can really resonated with theatregoers, finding laughs in some serious circumstances.

“A lot of the great comedy writing comes from some trying human elements,” he said.

In writing Harvest, Cameron brought a personal touch to the story, having based the plot on the real-life plight of his parents, Allister and Carolyn Cameron. The couple retired from their Elgin County farm to a condo in town, selling the land and leasing the house, only to be confronted with a surprising situation after the fact.

As this is light, summertime fare in the Drayton style, the takeaway message is positive, however.

“You’re definitely going to come out feeling uplifted. You’re definitely going to have some laughs.”

The Drayton Entertainment production of Harvest runs through July 30 at the Drayton Festival Theatre. Tickets are $46 ($27 for youths), available at the box office, online at www.draytonentertainment.com or by calling the (519) 638-5555 or toll free at 1-855-drayton (372-9866).

Steve Kannon
Steve Kannonhttps://www.observerxtra.com
A community newspaper journalist for more than two decades, Steve Kannon is the editor of the Observer.

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