Review by Danny Gaisin
For any Oakville community theatre fan, the concept of Dia Frid & Virginia McEwen as comedic adversaries has to be utopian! Mix in a creative director (Yo Mustafa) and a dynamic support cast and you have the formula for a definitely successful POOL’S PARADISE.
It was the late football coach –Vince Lombardi, who was credited with the philosophy that ‘Winning isn’t everything – it’s the only thing”. He, his team, and every patron of OLG’s 649; LottoMAX; Megadice etc. including yours truly; take his quote to heart.
In Philip King’s play, it is the ironies of a potential windfall that make this British farce such a hoot.
West End Studio Theatre has taken the mantra of “The Show Must Go On” seriously. In spite of an unfortunate water pipe break this summer that did some serious damage and necessitated rehearsing elsewhere, this reading of Pool’s Paradise is about as professional as it gets. Mustafa has exorcized the usual histrionics and overplaying that is associated with this type of theatre. Rather he, and his charges, personate for laughs; even at times –unsubtly; but the overall impression is one of an almost credible attitude and response to a possible win. The anti-gambling minister; his patronizing parishioner who lusts after his body; the far more secular Rebbitzin; and a housemaid who forgot to take her Ritalin®; and her suitor who is intellectually a Li’l Abner are the major characters. Who has bought tickets; who’ll be the winner; who may actually reject such largesse and which of the antagonistic ladies will get in the last blow make this a comedic nail-biter.
The cleric’s wife –Penelope has the axiomatic roll. Dia Frid incorporates so much of her own persona into her representation that it seems like we’re her social guests, not her audience. I and many of those we talked to during intermission swore that every time she called someone ‘Darling’, she was speaking directly to us. Her timing; and her zinger responses all are bang-on. Almost stealing the show is another of my favorites. Virginia McEwen’s ‘Miss Skillon’ is the over-the-top old maid and she gets laughs even with just her over-enunciation. When the lady refers to Rev. TOOP-eh, giving the added syllable slight emphasis, she’s snobbism personified. Like she did in the Gin Game, McEwen is able to never over-emphasize the slightly scatological malapropisms. Damn, the lady is so good at everything thespian.
The hyper kinetic maid is Pudgy Quast and she probably will lose about three pounds during every performance. Her perambulations, on stage and off, must have necessitated heavy-duty hinges installed on the highly-detailed set’s doors. Her suitor ‘Willie’ is portrayed by Bernard Pointet and he’s an awkward, slightly incredulous, hayseed who manages to convey oodles of emotion with just his facial and hand expressions. One must empathize with this poor schmuck trying to keep up with the others – intellectually.
The Rev himself – Michael Quast is the only straight-man in the cast. Except for some ridiculous pratfalls, he’s completely credible and unexaggerated. Out manoeuvred by wifey; besieged by a determined McEwen, and totally unable to control the peripatetic Ida, he epitomizes all of us slightly henpecked husbands.
Everything WEST undertakes it does so with competence and focus. To compete so successfully against such big boys as Soulpepper;, Shaw, Erindale, Sheridan & Stratford for our O.A.R. Top Ten listings obviously reflects immaculate detailing; great direction, skilled production and committed crew-members. POOL’S PARADISE epitomizes this standard and deserves filling every seat of the Oakville Centre. Tickets are only available through the OCPA – not your local Lottery kiosk and runs until Oct. 26th.