'Stag & Doe' by Mark Crawford

Port Hope Cameco Capitol Arts Centre

Port Hope Cameco Capitol Arts Centre

Joe Szekeres

‘Stag & Doe’ remains funny as hell with this dynamite cast

Sometimes, a second viewing of seeing a play can offer further insights into the human condition.
There’s a bonus if it’s still funny as hell.

Mark Crawford’s ‘Stag & Doe’ now onstage at Port Hope’s Capitol Theatre is just that the second time around. I found it far more hilarious under Jamie Robinson’s creatively controlled direction in showcasing what I felt was playwright Mark Crawford’s possible poking fun at the state and status of the ‘traditional’ wedding celebrations and the breaking points couples have in wanting to ensure everything goes perfectly without any faults.

Well, when comic real-life or when s#@t happens, things don’t go as planned. The task at hand for this cast is to ensure nothing ever ventures over the top to the point where it becomes silly and inane.
That doesn’t happen here as these six primo actors instinctively understand the subtle nuances of slick comic timing and just know when to hold and when to push through. As my friend Carey and I both concurred at intermission, it’s just a delight to sit back and watch skilled actors at work who just get and understand what comedy is all about.

Bonnie and Brad (Janelle Hanna and Amir Haidar) who have been living together are holding a Stag & Doe also known as Jack and Jill in a small Ontario local reception hall that Saturday night to help offset some of the costs of their upcoming nuptials. At the top of the show, Bonnie and her best friend/maid of honour Dee (Genevieve Adam) are preparing for the evening in the typical setting while having their ‘girl talk’ about the upcoming event. The talk then turns to the cost of this upcoming wedding. Brad enters as he is also of assistance in completing the outside runs to various establishments to pick items up. When he learns the girls are discussing the cost of Bonnie’s wedding dress, Brad is aghast because he is realizing just how out of control the price for this event is spiralling sky high.

Out of control bridezilla, Mandy (Rose Napoli) frantically enters to see if she can hold her wedding that same day in the reception hall as last night’s windstorm in town blew away the wedding tent. (An interesting program note. Rose originated the role of Mandy in the premiere production of ‘Stag & Doe’ at the Blyth Festival in which playwright Crawford also appeared).

We also meet the groom, Rob (Stuart Hefford) who also happens to have left Dee at the altar seven years ago and started seeing Mandy. The couples make a deal. Mandy and Rob’s wedding will be held until 8 pm when the Stag and Doe will then begin. Thrown into this mixture is Mandy’s caterer/single dad Jay (Luke Marty) who experiences problems of his own with the servers who were to show up to help serve the food.

Chaos ensues.

The comic performances are first-rate. Amir Haidar takes the comic straight-man role of Brad and believably makes him an ordinary likeable guy/bud who wants things to go just right without any kind of fuss at all on anybody’s part. But even Brad has his limits and Haidar realistically responds how a guy would respond when pushed to his limit. As the bride in waiting, Janelle Hanna’s Bonnie appears to be in semi-control of the preparations at the top of the show, but like Brad, she too has her limits in how much pressure she can take. Hanna’s comic reaction to wanting to wear her friend Dee’s dress in the second act made me laugh out loud.

As henpecked groom Rob, Stuart Hefford dutifully takes a lot of unfair treatment from Mandy because he gets that a wedding is something every girl plans in her life. Plus meeting his ex Dee seven years later on his wedding day is also a well-deserved kick in the behind for the way he dumped her at the altar. Hefford never went over the top in the way he played Rob’s breaking point; however, when that occurs in the second act there were a lot of surprised gasps from people sitting around me. I thought, “Yes, Hefford nailed it because he created a credible human male instinct that we men understand.”

Rose Napoli’s delivers a knockout, radiant performance as bridezilla Mandy. Napoli mixes the perfect amount of catty and bitchy in the first act. What made Napoli’s work rather memorable for me occurs near the end of the play where we see a woman who has ostensibly reached her breaking point in realizing she doesn’t have to be so perfect.

Genevieve Adam boldly peppers Dee with just the right amount of sass as she doesn’t put up with anything from anybody. Her retorts are executed with the perfect zing which she knows will sting especially in her conversations with Mandy and Rob in the first act. Luke Marty’s nice guy and caterer Jay is visibly concerned he doesn’t want to disappoint Mandy with the food he has prepared for her big day. Jay makes an unfortunate mistake in the first act which he remedies in the second act with slapstick results, especially for Mandy.

When a script calls for scene changes, I often wonder how directors will make them work without having to plunge the audience and stage into darkness. Set Designer Jackie Chau came up with a clever idea that worked nicely for me. Chau positioned a playing area on a riser centre stage. When some of the characters exited before the blackout, the audience can watch them silently continue what they were possibly experiencing in the prior moment. Haidir’s little dance during this bit made me laugh out loud.

Final Comments: This ‘Stag & Doe’ becomes a much-needed tonic remedy to cure the pandemic blues we’ve all experienced these last two years.

It’s zany, witty, and hilariously funny and the conclusion makes its point about the status of traditional weddings and preparation for them.

Running Time: approximately two hours with one intermission.

The production runs to July 30 at Port Hope’s Capitol Theatre, 20 Queen Street. Standard tickets are $45 and for under 30 $35.00 including a $2.78 ticketing fee. According to the website, all orders will be subject to an additional $2.50 Capital Improvement fund charge.

Call 905-885-1071 or visit capitoltheatre.com for more information.

STAG & DOE by Mark Crawford

CAMECO CAPITOL ARTS CENTRE
Director: Jamie Robinson
Set & Costume Designer: Jackie Chau
Lighting Designer: Nick Andison
Sound Designer: Lyon Smith
Fight Director: Siobhan Richardson
Stage Manager: Charlene Saroyan Assistant: Kaylo Ado

Performers: Genevieve Adam, Amir Haidar, Janelle Hanna, Stuart Hefford, Luke Marty, Rose Napoli

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