A Canadian theatre debut is getting its Bearings in Penticton.
The Shatford Players are hosting a fundraiser for the Oasis United Church with the first performance of the Colleen Curran’s Bearings in the country.
The comedy centres on two hikers (Cleo, played by Cheryl Gill and Chad played by Neil Ritcey) who get lost in the Canadian north and come across a cabin owned by “crazy” Nellie (Kim Russell). The two find themselves in a harrowing situation looking to find their way back as the stakes get raised.
“It’s a murder mystery, but it’s done in an extremely funny way that I don’t think anybody is going to be upset,” said director Judi Ritcey.
Ken James makes his Shatford Players debut as Brian Boru, the titular Black Bear, and Colin McKenzie plays Ranger Jeremiah Mayo.
Canadian playwright Curran is attending each performance and will have a meet and greet after each show as well as discussing the writing of the play.
The connection was made last year as the Shatford Players, named for the Shatford Centre, were formed by Judi.
A friend of the Shatford Centre knew Curran and the players decided to perform another one of her plays, Cakewalk, last year as a fundraiser as well. Curran was in attendance at Cakewalk performances as well.
“She’s a great help, she’s crazy as a coot, just a really nice lady,” Judi said. “It’s my understanding this is the Canadian premiere there was one performance in New York.”
The Shatford Players are excited to be performing in front of the playwright once again. Cakewalk was the first-ever play Gill performed in.
“It was my first one and it was a lot of fun and I learned a lot from these guys. Colleen was wonderful, she’s so approachable and really helpful. It’s just really exciting to get to be with this fun group again,” Gill said.
Russell, who relished the southern accent of Crazy Nellie, dressed reminiscent of a town prospector or tough-as-nails cowgirl, noted her fondness of Curran’s penchant for eccentric characters.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play both of them, one from (Cakewalk) and this one too. She’s a fantastic playwright. She has multiple dimensions in her plays and lots of layers going on,” Russell said.
Russell said she has been creating characters on her own to entertain her family for years, garnering an attraction to the more wacky, colourful characters.
“I’m recent to theatre and actually going by script, and I don’t know why I’m attracted to those ones. I guess they’re the most fun to play,” Russell added.
On the other end of the character spectrum, James enjoys smaller parts, but he finds they aren’t as easy as one might think.
“They’re sometimes harder because you only come in occasionally, so alright, I get to be the bear, I know all my lines now, it’s just when to come in,” James said. “I love the play because you think you know where it’s going but, oh, maybe not, it’s got some really interesting twists in it.”
McKenzie is stepping up to a larger role after a less-intensive spot in Cakewalk.
“It’s my first time up there in that sort of role. It’s very challenging because the character is very complex with lots of different moods and ideas. Playing off of Nellie, we play off each other a lot, and I think that is a huge help and I’m really looking forward to the challenge,” McKenzie said.
Neil, playing the “unflappable” Chad, is looking forward to the debut.
“The fact that it’s something that is being seen for the first time is exciting,” Neil said.
Bearings is making its debut the Oasis United Church with three showings from Sept. 15 to 17 each at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 available at the Oasis United Church, the Shatford Centre and Dragon’s Den on Front Street. For more information call Judi at 250-770-1867.