April 25, 2019

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Together again, with a different tale to tell

Stage actors find themselves reunited to portray another unlikely pairing

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Sharon Bajer is Carol and Toby Hughes is Vlad in After Jerusalem, a story by playwright Aaron Bushkowsky about a tourist and a soldier who become lovers.</p></p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Sharon Bajer is Carol and Toby Hughes is Vlad in After Jerusalem, a story by playwright Aaron Bushkowsky about a tourist and a soldier who become lovers.

The last time Sharon Bajer and Toby Hughes played a romantically involved couple was in the Royal MTC Warehouse production of the dark comedy Hand to God in early 2017. The relationship was, to say the least, a bit sketchy. Bajer won a Winnipeg Theatre Award for playing Margery, a church lady and the leader of a “puppet ministry” who has a sordid sexual affair with Hughes’ Timmy, the tough-kid classmate of Margery’s own son.

“It was quite dark,” Hughes says. “There was a lot of stuff going on.”

They play lovers again in the comedy After Jerusalem by Vancouver playwright Aaron Bushkowsky for Winnipeg Jewish Theatre. And though there is still an age difference between the two, this is more of a straight-ahead romantic comedy, Bajer says.

The play is set in Israel, where Bajer’s character, Carol, is a tourist. “She’s a nice lady from Regina, just there to see the place where Jesus was born.”

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The last time Sharon Bajer and Toby Hughes played a romantically involved couple was in the Royal MTC Warehouse production of the dark comedy Hand to God in early 2017. The relationship was, to say the least, a bit sketchy. Bajer won a Winnipeg Theatre Award for playing Margery, a church lady and the leader of a "puppet ministry" who has a sordid sexual affair with Hughes’ Timmy, the tough-kid classmate of Margery’s own son.

"It was quite dark," Hughes says. "There was a lot of stuff going on."

They play lovers again in the comedy After Jerusalem by Vancouver playwright Aaron Bushkowsky for Winnipeg Jewish Theatre. And though there is still an age difference between the two, this is more of a straight-ahead romantic comedy, Bajer says.

The play is set in Israel, where Bajer’s character, Carol, is a tourist. "She’s a nice lady from Regina, just there to see the place where Jesus was born."

She meets Vlad, a gun-toting soldier, played by Hughes, and the two click despite chasms of religion, culture and geography.

"They’re two very unlikely candidates for a relationship, or anything romantic," Bajer says. "She’s an older, middle-aged lady from Canada travelling to Jerusalem."

"And he’s a Russian-Israeli soldier with a self-perceived dark past... a very dramatic individual who obsesses over Chekhov and specifically Konstantin from The Seagull," Hughes says, referring to the melancholic writer from the Russian playwright’s 1895 drama.

"On the surface, it seems like a sweet romantic comedy," Bajer says during a rehearsal break at the Berney Theatre. "But it’s actually more about two people who really kind of hate themselves, and they come to see each other the way the other person sees them.

"So it’s really about making a true connection with another human."

As in most romantic comedies, there are hurdles. Both characters have problems with self-loathing and truth-telling.

"To Carol, he’s very straightforward and direct, and to Vlad, she’s very insightful," Bajer says. "But they’re lying to each other all the time."

The common ground is a mutual love of film.

"They bond over movies," Bajer says. "Because they’re from different cultures and different countries, the American movies are something they immediately have in common."

Bajer sees that the age difference between the characters may make the comedy appeal to women in particular.

"It’s about a young handsome soldier who falls for an older, middle-aged woman," she says. "That’s still very unusual, but it’s kind of a nice romantic idea in itself."

"What’s interesting about this play is it doesn’t play up the unusualness of it," Hughes says. "It’s more about the connection between the two characters.

"There’s such a real connection, we’re not going to worry about age," he says. "That’s just not really a part of it."

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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