Theatre group to stage two shows this season

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GORE BAY—Next week, Gore Bay Theatre opens its summer season with two shows, “On a First Name Basis,” a comedy by Canada’s most produced playwright, Norm Foster, and “Molly Sweeney,” a drama by internationally acclaimed Irish playwright Brian Friel.

Any play written by Norm Foster is hilarious and “On a First Name Basis” will be no different. The Orangeville Citizen said, “it keeps an audience spellbound and is laugh out loud funny.”

The Wellington Advisor said, “it is funny and enthralling, a phenomenal script.”

And the London Free Press said, “Foster’s script is one of his best.”

Gore Bay Theatre co-director Walter Maskel stated “this is the 10th Norm Foster play that Gore Bay Theatre has produced, and the reason is simple. He writes plays that are funny and heartwarming.”

The play features Helen and Ray Landry, two well known and experienced actors who have appeared in plays in Espanola, Sudbury and now the Island.

Originally produced by Gore Bay Theatre in 2020, “Molly Sweeney” competed in the annual Northern Ontario Drama Festival against groups from Espanola, Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay, sweeping the awards, including best production, director, best actress, ensemble acting, original music and visual presentation.

Unfortunately, because of the pandemic the summer performances had to be cancelled in 2020 and 2021. This reporter saw the Molly Sweeney performance and my response was the same as the adjudicator, who commented after the performance, in a word, “brilliant.”

The play itself has won numerous international awards including the Lucille Lortel Award for best play of the New York season. The Washington Metro News said it was “a masterful play, funny and heart rendering, beautiful and thought provoking.”

An interesting Manitoulin fact about this production is that the author cites Oliver Sachs, an internationally acclaimed neurologist and his book, “Seeing and Not Seeing,” as the source for his play “Molly Sweeney.” Mr. Sachs summered on and loved the Island for one summer and considered moving here permanently and working as a physician in Gore Bay.

The stellar cast includes Tara Bernatchez, John Robertson and Will Smith with original music by Mary Anderson.

Co-director Andrea Emmerton said, “all the actors in both productions have been recognized with awards at the regional and provincial levels.”

Both plays will be performed in repertory (back to back). Mr. Maskel said, “to my knowledge, we are the only summer theatre in the province that offers audiences the opportunity to see two different plays on consecutive nights. Unlike the big theatre companies that have multiple stages, it is very challenging to create sets and lighting that can be adapted in our small space.”

Ms. Emmerton added, “we enjoy offering two entirely different experiences for our audiences with highly acclaimed plays that have made their mark with audiences world-wide.”

Information about both productions is in the advertisement in this week’s Expositor on page 22 with times and ticket details. Summer theatre is finally back, so don’t miss it!