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Playgoers tackle French farce

Posted on February 20, 2019 by Richard Amery

“Where’s Oscar?”
Playgoers of Lethbridge will be at the Sterndale Bennett Theatre, Feb. 20-23, to show you where Oscar is and simultaneously make you break out with an attack of laughter.
Tom Gillespie’s adaptation of the French farce features misunderstandings, mispronunciations, crazy accents, lots of physical comedy and lots of fun as cosmetics magnate Bernard Mallard (not pronounced like the duck) is about to have a really bad day.
“Bernard Mallard is a cosmetics tycoon and his accountant Christian steals $34,000 from him, which he converts into jewelry,” said Rob Berezay, who is excited to tackle the comedy as both director and in the lead role of Mallard for the third time.
“And Mr. Mallard discovers his daughter is ‘pregnant’ with his chauffeur’s baby and his maid has quit to marry millionaire DeWitt the Zit. There’s false marriage proposals, a bag of jewels that magically and persistently change into a bundle of ladies underwear, and a mysterious woman from his past with a big secret. It’s a convoluted, tension-building, harried journey to a happy ending for all.”
“It’s very reminiscent of British farce,” added Berezay, who both directed and starred in the play in Milk River and in Raymond.
“I love the script,” he said. “It’s hilarious and I get to lose it every night.”
Berezay brings back Howard Pearson as the butler Manuel, but most of the rest of the 11-member cast are new to the Playgoers of Lethbridge stage. There are some familiar faces like Jeff Graham as the bodybuilder masseur Phillipe, Elaine Jagielski as Mallard’s wife Isabel Mallard, Jocelyn Steinborn as the mystery woman, Charlotte and Richard Amery as the Mr. DeWitt’s Chaffeur Vladimir.
Newcomers include Josh Williams as the smooth criminal, conniving accountant Christian Martin, Teresa Huszar as Trixie the ambitious maid, Halla Wagner as Mallard’s daughter Colette, Meghan Richter as Bernadette and Tyler Vanden Dool as the ever-elusive chauffeur Oscar.
The play has been been a collaborative production including all the cast.
“I’ve enjoyed watching the play evolve nicely,” Berezay said. “My style of directing is to let the actors contribute to the final product. They have had a lot of ideas about deliver and blocking suggestions.
“So it’s been different every time. And it’s for a completely new auditions. But I’ve had Howard Pearson with me every time as Manuel.”
He has had to work around the cast’s different schedules as well as adapting to weather conditions and some of the actors coming in from out of town for rehearsals.
“People have busy lives,” said Berezay. “It‘s always stressful to have to recast. But Halla and Josh really stepped forward.”
“We cast Josh over Christmas and started rehearsals with him in January and he was off book with the rest of us.”
The cast is a little larger than most Playgoers of Lethbridge productions, but that didn’t faze Berezay.
“I’m user to working with casts of 40-45 in musicals,” said Berezay, who was also involved with “Titanic” last year, which was the first production in the Yates Theatre. Now he is excited to break in the newly renovated Sterndale Bennett Theatre.
“They were working 24-7 to get the Yates ready for us last year and they’re doing the same for the Sterndale Bennett. So it’s exciting to be the first show back in the Sterndale after the renovations,” he said.
“We were ready to go in front of an audience last week. So we’re ready for one now.”
Josh Williams is excited to be back on stage as Christian, the conniving accountant. Though he was recruited at the last minute, he found it east to learn all his lines.“It’s so well written, it was easy to learn the lines,” he said, adding the script was what made him want to return to the stage.
“I did some acting in college, but it was mostly skits and sketches.”
“I’ve really enjoyed the process of rehearsals,” he noted, adding Christian is a fun character to play.
“Christian is really arrogant and he’s completely different from me. So it has been fun to play up that aspect of him to Mr. Mallard,” he said.
While Teresa Huszar is new to Playgoers stage, she isn’t new to the stage.
“My parents have been Playgoers of Lethbridge members since before I was born. So It has h always been part of my life,” said Huszar, who is excited to play the maid, Trixie.
“But I acted in school and with my church, And I was in the LCSO’s production of ‘Nunsense.’ I’ve been acting pretty much my whole life,” she said.“Trixie is very ambitious. She wants to leave the house. She’s just wants her paycheque and it’s all good though there is some compassion. She’s going to marry a rich guy.”
Huszar is enjoying working with Playgoers.“It’s been great. It’s been a lot of fun,” she said, adding the cast is always laughing with each other during rehearsals.
“I’m excited to be in the Sterndale Bennett Theatre. I’m just excited to perform in front of an audience. I’m just so jazzed.”
Huszar added, “I hope everyone will find one scene that has them busting a gut. And I hope they remember the show when they leave. Be cause there’s nothing worse otherwise. It’s a bad show if you can’t remember it.”
“I hope that people will laugh,” Berezay said. “There is so much unhappiness and despair in the world today, if we can take them away from that for 90 minutes, then we’ve done our jobs. It’s a comedy.” “Where’s Oscar?” runs at the Sterndale Bennett Theatre Feb. 20-23 at 7:30 p.m. each night. Tickets cost $22 in advance, $25 at the door. You can buy them online at http://www.enmaxcentre.ca or at the Enmax Centre or Yates Theatre Box Office.

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