'Chase the Ace'
Festival Players of Ontario's Prince Edward County
By Joe Szekeres
After watching actor and playwright Mark Crawford’s terrific opening night performance of ‘Chase the Ace’ with the Festival Players at Bloomfield’s Eddie Farm in Ontario’s Prince Edward County, one thing came abundantly clear to me.
Don’t mess with certain people in small town Ontario because you just might need them when things get tough.
Just like the stars twinkled in the night sky as I walked back to my room, Crawford’s ‘Chase the Ace’ script beamed brightly for its delightfully capricious humour. Mark instinctively knows how to connect with an audience. His ‘radio voice’ figuratively reached out and warmly invited me to embark on a six-month journey with him to a small town where events become dangerous, hilarious, exciting, and inspirational. In addition, Miles Potter’s finely nuanced direction carefully balanced these four elemental characteristics to ensure they didn’t overpower each other.
Dressed in a blue checkered shirt, blue running shoes and tan khaki summer pants Crawford is Charlie King, a big city radio host, forced to take a job managing a small-town station on account of bad luck in his personal life. Charlie has no idea what lies ahead in this new posting. The worldwide pandemic begins his first week in Port Belette and soon he quickly finds himself pursuing a story of municipal corruption while trying to keep interest floating in the local ‘Chase the Ace’ lottery.
It’s a top-notch and perfectly timed performance the affable and charming Crawford delivers in providing the voices of all the characters with no props used whatsoever.
And he does a mighty fine job in vocalizing some of these quirky and bizarre residents of Port Belette while adopting their peculiar mannerisms. At several points, I closed my eyes for a few seconds and just revelled in listening to Crawford’s masterful storytelling as I could visualize in my mind the physical appearance of each of these characters.
The BMO Pavilion on the Eddie Farm is a perfect location to stage the outdoor production on this lovely summer evening. There is a nearly full circle wooden platform stage with a white rectangular table and matching chair centre stage. That’s it. Crawford uses the space effectively to its fullest by ensuring he speaks to the audience equally on all sides. I was thankful to see he wore a microphone as I could clearly hear every word.
Final Comments: With Mark Crawford as ‘raconteur extraordinaire’, ‘Chase the Ace’ becomes a prescribed artistic panacea we need in helping us emerge from the shackles of this pandemic. It is another definite must see this summer.
‘Chase the Ace’ runs to August 29, 2021 at the BMO Pavilion at the Eddie Hotel and Farm, 15786 Loyalist Parkway, Bloomfield, Ontario. For tickets and other information, please visit www.festivalplayers.ca.
The next stop of the Ontario Tour for ‘Chase the Ace’ is the Blyth Festival from September 8 – 19, 2021.
Performance runs approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.
‘CHASE THE ACE’ written and performed by Mark Crawford
Directed by Miles Potter
Stage Manager: Michael Hart
Photo of Mark Crawford by Ann Baggley