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REVIEW: Harvest features likable characters, despite weaknesses in story

by Chris Daponte

ORANGEVILLE - After having to sell their family farm and move to a condominium, Allan and Charlotte Duncanson have enough on their plate.

But Harvest, the latest production from Theatre Orangeville, proves true the age-old adage that sometimes, when it rains it pours.

Bad turns to worse for the Duncansons, who, not wanting to completely let go, sever their farm parcel to retain their farmhouse, only to be taken advantage of by an unscrupulous tenant who moves into the home.

Based on a true story about the parents of playwright Ken Cameron, Harvest starts out with promise and features two likable characters in the Duncansons.

But the story develops at a snail’s pace and the audience spends much of the first act wondering when something will happen.

Brian McKay is good as Allan, but he fumbled over several lines during the preview show on March 31, and his portrayal of several other minor characters in the play tended to be either over the top or lacking in enthusiasm.

Melodee Finlay’s performance, however, falls somewhere in the middle, right where it should be. She is great as Charlotte and excels at playing the unique supporting characters.

The set design could have been better, but the seasoned  actors seemed to have received adequate direction from David Nairn. But even if everything else was perfect, it would be hard for the production to overcome weaknesses in the script.

In addition to developing too slowly, the story fails to adequately explore, until the very end of the play, the difficult and heartfelt emotions seniors must face when forced to leave their homes - and everything they know - behind for a small urban apartment.

The back-and-forth exchanges between Allan and Charlotte are perfectly written and generally well delivered, but there are certain contradictions in the couple’s behaviour that are hard to reconcile.

One minute Allan and Charlotte are sweet and innocent, and the next they launch a campaign to destroy a local insurance company because of their own silly mistake.

And while most will agree it is best to forgive and forget, the couple’s willingness to let their shady tenant off the hook (after an impassioned plea from the low-life), seems contrived and insincere, if not downright ridiculous.

The Duncansons are clearly taken advantage of by their tenant, but instead of an outpouring of sympathy for the seniors, audiences may find themselves partially condemning them for being so gullible and careless.

Some of the above weaknesses could have been overlooked if the play was packed with huge laughs, but it’s not. There are a few chuckles provided here and there, yet many of the jokes are very predictable and some are so corny the audience half expects to hear a rim shot upon delivery.

While exiting the theatre, some audience members could be heard saying they enjoyed Harvest, so perhaps much of the  play’s content is not fully appreciated by younger audience members.

True, there are some great references to local places, including Mount Forest and Drayton, and there is some fine commentary here on the consequences of rural depopulation and the demise of the small family farm. There’s also some great material about retiring, aging, and even mortality, which will hit home with more mature crowds, specifically those from more rural areas.

It’s certainly not without its flaws and weaknesses, but Harvest does feature two endearing characters and a laid back feel - both which should be appreciated by those mentioned above.

Harvest plays six shows a week until April 17. For tickets call 1-519-942-3423 or 1-800-424-1295 or visit www.theatreorangeville.ca.

 

Vol 44 Issue 14

 
 

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