The Land of Beauty by Bet O'Toole

'Script Happens' as part of Saint John Theatre Company

'Script Happens' as part of Saint John Theatre Company

Aaron Kropf

A Shining 'Land of Beauty'

Saint John Theatre Company presented Bet O’Toole’s new play 'The Land of Beauty' as part of Script Happens, a program that gives playwrights the opportunity to develop a script with it ultimately being staged. I think more of these programs should be developed across the country to bring more Canadian stories to our stages from coast to coast to coast..

The Land of Beauty is the story of reclusive Goldie (solidly played by Bet O’Toole), who sends up balloons with letters to her deceased daughter each month. Due to this little eccentricity, Goldie is well known throughout the little community. Thanks to the town's newest reporter, Melissa (wonderfully performed by Kailey LeBlanc), we get a glimpse into Goldie’s life and what led her to become a recluse. Along the way we get to meet the local know-it-all Evelyn (Laura Bassett), her husband Ralph (Dewayne Keating), and Goldie’s sister Hester (Kelli Wray).

O’Toole has developed a poignant story of small-town life, loss, and the importance of belonging. Beauty has a few interesting characters, one, in particular, I’m sure many audience members know all too well. Evelyn is the local church lady that knows everyone's business and isn’t afraid about telling others about it. Her introduction iis a shining example of O’Toole’s mastery of the English language, and Laura Bassett’s ability to really spit out words and embody everything we know about the local busy body. Many times after seeing Bassett leave the stage I was wanting more Evelyn.

The minimal set with Goldie’s house to the right and the exterior of her home to the left was well used. Goldie’s home was simple, with a kitchen to the back, a table and a few chairs centre, and a wicker chair and sofa to the right. Scattered on the walls of Goldie’s place were a number of Goldie’s hand-painted kites. For the outside, a screen and a few projections were used to set the scene. Its simplicity made for a clear delineation of the interior and exterior. Kudos should be given to both director Dean Turner and set designer Dave Belyea for keeping it simple.

It’s wonderful to see new shows come to the stage, with delightful performances by each cast member

'The Land of Beauty' shines. I look forward to seeing the next story Bet O’Toole is developing.

'The Land of Beauty' can be seen live at the BMO Studio Theatre until June 11 and is available for streaming on June 10 and 11.

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