Mending Fences and more in the heart of the prairies

The latest Many Hats Theatre production brings an estranged father and son together with plenty of laughs and much more.

Mending Fences and more in the heart of the prairies

Eric Hanston and Andrew Knudsen have wasted no time developing the father-son chemistry for the latest Many Hats offering, Canadian playwright Norm Foster’s Mending Fences.

“It’s been good because we really didn’t like each other at the start of it,” Hanston laughed.

Hanston is taking on the role of Harry Sullivan who’s son Drew (Knudsen) returns to his Saskatchewan ranch origins as the two gruffly attempt to reconcile in a way indicative of prairie life.

“Although on the surface it’s really just about (Drew) trying to see if (Harry) —,” Knudsen said. “Is the reason for him being a screw-up,” Hanston laughed as he interjected.

“I make him cry every night,” Knudsen joked. “It’s pretty easy, we’ve found it pretty natural to work together on stage. Eric has been in tons of shows, I’ve certainly been in my fair share, and Jean (Kearney) is kicking butt and absolutely is keeping us in line.”

Kearney, in her first Many Hats performance, plays Harry’s neighbour Gin, as well as his girlfriend and more among many roles which become more clear as the plot rolls out a few select flashback sequences. Kearney has slid into her debut role nicely.

“Gin and I are very similar in that we’re both very country-ish. I have an acreage and horses and so that character is an easy fit for me,” Kearney said.

Hanston grew up in the Peace River area, known for “flat and farming,” as he put it. He won’t have to delve too deep into his past to bring Harry’s prairie sensibility to the stage thanks to the script.

“I think a lot of it is brought out in the dialogue that Foster’s got here. He has a way of bringing the characters to life and aiding you in your character development with the dialogue that he creates,” Hanston said.

The conversational tone is a natural one, with emotion, humour and some “almost-fistfights” in store Hanston and his fellow cast members agreed that Foster “writes real people.”

“At times it’s like call and response,” Hanston said. “It does have a natural flow to it so it makes the dialogue come a little easier. At times it can be fairly tricky a lot of the dialogue is one or two words, very jerky almost.”

Knudsen noted as tensions build in the scenes, the number of words exchanged between characters can decrease.

“You start getting these monosyllabic words that are like ‘gah,’ ‘blah,’ ‘rah,’” Knudsen said.

Director and Many Hats veteran Ed Schneider is excited to bring another Foster play to the stage.

“It’s a fun story, it’s lots of humour. In no way, shape or form should we say it’s downer. Norm Foster is one of the best playwrights at taking the good and the bad and weaving them together,” Schneider said.

Mending Fences comes to the Cannery Stage running from Sept. 8 to Oct. 1. Tickets are $22 for an adult and $19 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at The Tax Guy in #120 at the Cannery Trade Centre, down the hall from the theatre, or by calling 250-460-1842.