By Rick Garrick
THUNDER BAY—Drew Hayden Taylor enjoyed the opening performance of his Crees in the Caribbean play by Six Nations actor Gary Farmer and two others at Magnus Theatre in Thunder Bay.
“I liked what he did with it — he had fun with the character and he gave Cecil [Poundmaker] some depth and some emotion,” says the award-winning playwright and Curve Lake citizen. “And I think the audience really related to him.”
Taylor says he was delighted and flattered when he heard that Farmer would be performing in his comedy about two middle-aged First Nation seniors who are celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary at a resort in Mexico. The play runs from Jan. 30-Feb. 11 with Marsha Knight as Evie, Cecil’s partner, and Julia Porter as Manuela.
“It was a great production — it’s really nice and wonderful to see Gary Farmer up on the stage again,” Taylor says. “I worked with him 30 years ago on a series called Spirit Bay and it’s gone full circle and we are back here working together again. And the other cast members really brought it to life, and I think it hit some very strong chords with the audience.”
Farmer says he had a good time during the opening performance of the play.
“I could hear the laughs and the fun that people were having,” Farmer says. “I thought it was a good show. You build up and you build up and you try to get it right for the author. And of course for the opening night audience, we had a good time.”
Farmer enjoys performing in front of an audience, noting that the cast did rehearsals on their own for about three weeks.
“I just love when the audience is there,” Farmer says. “I thought the audience would love it and they kind of do — they get a real good laugh out of it and then it kind of slaps them up emotionally a bit. It’s got the right balance to be a good play. It would make a good movie too, I think.”
Thom Currie, Magnus Theatre’s artistic director, enjoyed working with Farmer on the play.
“He cracks me up — I laughed every day,” Currie says. “We were so lucky to get Gary for this show. It was a tough show to cast for me because I feel that the Indigenous play is one of the most important that we do at Magnus over the course of the year. I wanted to attract performers that would have a very broad base so that the Native community here would come as they always have.”
Currie says the play is a “very funny story” about two people in late middle age who are on their first vacation outside of Canada.
“There is a bit of a culture shock for them in that regard,” Currie says. “It’s heartwarming, it’s very funny, it’s very real. These are characters that everybody knows. Everyone will recognize someone in their family, someone in their neighbourhood, someone in their world up on the stage.”
Knight says the play is about a celebration of the trials and tribulations of a couple and the longevity of marriage.
“The audiences are very warm and welcoming,” Knight says. “You could hear them laughing at different points and absolutely quiet in other areas, so it was very much a rollercoaster type of play.”
Currie is currently looking at moving the Indigenous play to the fall next year.
“I would much rather see it in a stronger position within the season,” he stated.