Having grown up on a farm in southwestern Ontario, playwright Mark Crawford knows a thing or two about rural living. And, clearly, about the birds and the bees, as can be seen on stage in Drayton Entertainment’s latest offering.
Running through June 10 at the Hamilton Family Theatre Cambridge (formerly the Dunfield Theatre), The Birds & the Bees introduces us to love, family dynamics … and the artificial insemination of turkeys. Ah, yes, romance is in the air. With more than a dollop of humour.
Set in two adjoining bedrooms on a modern Canadian farm, the play introduces us to Gail, Earl, Sarah and Ben for what may be the last-ever Turkey Days Festival. There’s more than fowl play involved as 38-year-old Sarah has left her husband and moved back home to live with her mother Gail until she sorts out her life. Despite the fact that she’s a divorcée of two decades years herself, Gail isn’t exactly providing the compassion that Sarah needs. An avid beekeeper, Gail has other things on her mind – like wondering why her honeybees are dropping dead all of a sudden. Then there’s Gail’s neighbour Earl, a farm tenant (and ladies’ man) who keeps dropping in unannounced, and Ben, an eager 23-year-old master’s student intent on studying the collapsing bee colonies, who’s about to get a big lesson in pollination.
“The Birds & The Bees is a hilarious new comedy about mothers and daughters, and the ups and downs of love,” says Alex Mustakas, artistic director of Drayton Entertainment. “Audiences are bound to laugh as they see the mating game play out between two couples at different stages in their lives – it’s funny, touching and very relatable.”
The small-town setting is in keeping with Crawford’s métier since the actor/playwright debuted with Stag and Doe at the Blyth Festival in 2014. His second play, Bed and Breakfast, opened the following year, with The Birds & the Bees premiering in 2016, again at Blyth. Last year, he penned his first play for young audiences, Boys, Girls and Other Mythical Creatures.
Character studies are a staple, as amply the case with Gail, Earl, Sarah and Ben.
For the Drayton production, Gabrielle Jones (The Drowsy Chaperone) is Gail, a long-divorced woman who copes with her loneliness by keeping herself busy with bees. A staple in Canadian theatre, Jones has appeared in productions all across North America including six seasons with the Stratford Festival, 12 seasons with the Shaw Festival, national tours of Mamma Mia! and Les Misérables, and several productions for Drayton Entertainment.
Stacy Smith is Sarah, Gail’s thirty-something daughter, a turkey farmer who has left her husband of 11 years to come back to live with her mother just until she figures out what to do about her messy marital situation. Smith has worked extensively in television and film, and appeared in stage productions nationwide including The Ladies Foursome and Run For Your Wife for Drayton Entertainment.
Terry Barna is Earl, Gail’s frisky neighbour who is a little too forthcoming with details about his boisterous sex life. After a series of failed relationships, he’s taken the “no strings attached” approach, which affronts Gail’s prim sensibilities about mature relationships. In addition to his work on the Canadian sitcom Meet The Family, Barna has appeared in several Drayton Entertainment productions including The Odd Couple, The Love List, Bedtime Stories and more.
Thomas Duplessie is Ben, an enthusiastic, young master’s student who visits Gail’s farm to study her declining bee population. He gets more than he bargained for when he falls into a sticky situation with Gail’s daughter Sarah. Duplessie was Eugene in Brighton Beach Memoirs in 2016; he also appeared alongside George Wendt in Death of a Salesman.
The Drayton Entertainment production of The Birds & the Bees runs through June 10 at the Hamilton Family Theatre Cambridge. Tickets are $46 for adults; $27 for youth under 20 years of age, available at the theatre, online at www.draytonentertainment.com or by calling the box office at (519) 621-8000, toll free at 1-855-drayton (372-9866).