August 21, 2017


15° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast


Advertise With Us

Amiable play short on high points

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/4/2014 (1234 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

With two actors playing multiple roles, a rural setting and a mildly patronizing tone, this reality-inspired comedy by Calgary playwright Ken Cameron feels a tad like a entry in Dan Needles' farm-friendly theatrical franchise with an unseemly infusion of drug trafficking: Wingfield Goes to Pot.

Not that marijuana is ever actually consumed onstage. Hardly a head comedy, this rustic misadventure aims squarely for the heart.

Bruce Monk photo
Winnipeg actors Tom Anniko and Megan McArton play a married couple, as well as multiple other characters.

Bruce Monk photo Winnipeg actors Tom Anniko and Megan McArton play a married couple, as well as multiple other characters.

Cameron was inspired by an incident that touched his aging parents. They rented their rural farmhouse to a man claiming to be a WestJet pilot looking for a little country comfort. In fact, the man used the house as a grow-op for an indoor marijuana plantation.

Because such operations require a combination of heat and humidity, grow-op properties are prone to toxic black mould, rendering them unfit for human habitation. The property was the couple's retirement nest egg, and such a prospect was potentially devastating.

Cameron primarily uses that plot thread to examine the relationship of the long-married couple. Sparks fly between Allan Duncanson (Tom Anniko) and his wife Charlotte (Megan McArton), but not in the soul-stripping Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf template. The plain-spoken Charlotte impulsively corrects Allan when he talks about how their farm has been in the family for more than a century. Allan responds by observing that an argument with his wife is as futile as "talking sense to a tornado."

The two somehow manage to agree to sell the farm property so they can take up a more comfortable retirement residence in a condo. The impending house sale will secure their future, as the Canada Pension Plan offers little security for a farmer as Allan asserts. CPP? "Just shoot me now," he says in one of the play's Wingfield-esque shout-outs to aggies in the audience.

Renting out the house seems a viable option, especially when the tenant is the seemingly affable Ron. But Ron's sunglasses hide his shifty motivations.

The comedy has its inventive moments, as when Anniko uses a crop of sunflowers to illustrate how the tight-knit rural community bands together to put pressure on a recalcitrant insurance adjuster. (Brian Perchaluk's elegant garden set design is put to interesting use here.) And Anniko and McArton are admirably game when it comes to portraying the other characters who fall into the couple's orbit, often trading off on playing a single character as required.

One such character is the cop who breaks the bad news to the couple about the after-effects of the grow-op. Played by either actor, he is an especially heinous cliché, armed with coffee and a doughnut, and spouting marijuana synonyms like some caricature out of a '70s underground comic book. Director Arne MacPherson gets no points for subtlety here.

Granted, subtlety is not the comedy's strong suit. Cameron ultimately decided the story here would ultimately serve as a homage to his parents, and it feels duly dutiful, affectionate and uncritical. It's a nice gift.

Dramatically speaking, however, it amounts to stems and seeds and precious little bud.

Read more by Randall King.


Advertise With Us

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.

Photo Store

Scroll down to load more