Stephenville Theatre Festival review
© Frank Gale
Bay Theatre's Mary Hynes as Frances, left, and Tanya Alexander as Jenny, rehearse a scene from “Jenny’s House of Joy,” last week. "Jenny's House of Joy" kicked off the 64th Annual Provincial Drama Festival in Stephenville on Sunday, April 20, 2014.
The 64th annual provincial drama festival was kicked off Sunday night with Bay Theatre’s production of “Jenny’s House of Joy” directed by Michael Fenwick.
“Jenny’s House of Joy” is a unique blend of comedy and western. Set in a house of ill repute located in Baxter Springs, Kansas, this play follows the lives of four colourful women in the 1870s. This show exudes a vibrant playful sentiment that allows the audience to simply sit back and enjoy. No immense concentration is necessary, there are no hidden themes or motifs to decipher. Anyone (of a reasonable age) would be able to follow and enjoy this show.
Foster provides each character with a substantial back story giving each actor a clear path for character development. However, like many Norm Foster plays, it is easy for these characters to be taken lightly and as a result become two dimensional stereotypes. This is the actors’ main challenge with this piece. Anita, played by Kylie Cook and Frances played by Mary Hynes took full advantage of their contrasting character types and played off each other wonderfully. Anita seemed even more hopeful and doe eyed next to the coarse and jaded Frances. Their sisterhood developed as the play progressed and the true person underneath each of the characters facades cracked through as Anita told her story of embarrassment and disappointment when her expectations were let down in regard to a trip she took with a favourite gentleman suitor.
Jenny played by Tanya Alexander also proved more than capable of developing into a multi-dimensional character. She was the glue that held the story, as well as the production together, with her grounded nature. She managed to come across as a relatable, real woman despite her being the founder of the gentlemen’s club.
The set, like the costumes, truly were appropriate for the time and place. The array of loud fabrics, colours and prints could have looked luxurious on their own, but mashed together as they were gave the sense of rough edges and a lack of elegance that one would expect to see in an establishment of this sort. There was a great deal of blackouts between set changes, which were extensive considering that the set did not require notable changes, and as a result it did drag the show along. I was glad to hear the upbeat piano ditties during this time though, as it kept the audience engaged as well as keeping with the integrity of the period.
All things considered this show was a great start to what will surely be an interesting week in Stephenville.
Emily House is from Stephenville/Robinsons and is a graduate of Memorial University Grenfell Campus' theatre program.