Playwright Gord Carruth, has not lived in Hamilton in more than thirty years, now residing as he does in Ottawa. But back in the day, he staged a number of original musicals out of Hamilton Place, and was active with several local theatre companies, including his own company Popcorn Productions. He was also a beloved local high school teacher, who shared his passion for the arts with a generation of students in the city, before finishing up his education career as the principal of Sir Allan MacNab Secondary School.
With his writing partner, the late Robert Knuckle, he also wrote a number of straight plays and comedies, most famously a one man show about the football coach Vince Lombardi, that ended up on the CBC. Last year, he was elected into the Hamilton Gallery of Distinction.
The current offering, at the Player’s Guild, is in fact a twenty–six year old play that has had many, many, North American productions over the years. It was last performed locally, at Hamilton Place back in 1993, in a production directed by Pat Dawson, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the theatre on Summers Lane.
So this is a timely revival of a fascinating play, that is being reintroduced to an audience, who almost certainly, will never have heard of it, before. We have director Dan Penrose to thank for pitching the play in the direction of the Guild, as well as for keeping the tempo quick and the laughs coming regularly.
The play is set in a modest two room apartment in Toronto, where a lonely 71 year old widower, Rueben Ludlow, (played here by Jerrold Karsh), a retired tailor, is mourning his late wife, whose picture sits prominently on the piano.
His best friend, the expatriate Newfoundlander, Mickey Flaherty, (played by Laurence Madden), drops by regularly to cheer up his old friend, bringing lottery tickets. The pair are astonished, when they win the grand prize of forty million dollars.
The rest of the play then. is the shenanigans that the two men get up to, such as, helping a local seniors centre, whose building is being foreclosed, and getting revenge on a greedy and creepy bank manager, (Dan Anderson), who has crossed them.
Add three more actors to the mix, the German cleaning lady, “Mrs Trampler” (Sandy Milne), the Italian bookie “Tony” (Mike Durkacz), and a just called to the bar, female lawyer, “Anna”, enacted with electric style and grace, by Stephanie Christiaens, and there you have it. A very funny mashup of Neil Simon’s witty one liners, and Shaw’s clever plotting, filtered through the lens of a classic 1980s, one setting television sit–com.
In the sense, of extreme wealth being used to torment the greedy, Gord Carruth’s play reminded me a great deal of Terry Southern’s very funny black comedy, The Magic Christian, which was made into a 1969 film that starred Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr. The fine interior unit set, designed by John Strob and Eileen McAnuff, serves the play well, and is nicely complemented by Lawrence Hamilton’s lighting.
In the Time of Old Age continues for two more weekends, at the studio theatre on Queen Street. It is well worth checking out.V
IN THE TIME OF OLD AGE
A comedy by Gord Carruth,
Directed by Dan Penrose,
At the Player’s Guild Studio Theatre,
80 Queen Street South,
January 23, 24, 25, 30, 31, February 1 at 8:00pm
Matinees: January 25, and February 1 at 2:00pm
Tickets: 905-529-0284 or
online at www.playersguild.org