A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY
PACIFIC THEATRE, until February 9th, 2019
My Two Pence
Please Note: The current production of A Prayer For Owen Meany is a remount of this production from a year and a half ago, with many of the same staff involved. Some of the concerns and praise directed to the original show may or may not be true of the current version
By Robert Blackburn
A Prayer For Owen Meany by Ensemble Theatre Company performed in repertory at Jericho Arts Centre is my kind of show. No surprise then that I would highly recommend seeing it. The decor was simple, the setting intimate and the most important aspect, the acting, was of a high standard across the board. Even more so for the leads. It all made, for this viewer, a near perfect night out at the theatre.
I say near, because what show is ever perfect? The two actresses playing the older ladies fell into some amateur face-pulling on occasion. There were some sightline issues that director Ian Farthing had to contend with, so some action was missed when characters came down the side of the audience and spoke inwards to the set...thus the eternal nature of a thrust stage. But, on the other hand, he has to be commended in making the set changes blend in with the scenes and giving the whole process a smooth fluidity that allowed the action to keep moving unabated.
And then there were the performances. Gabriel Carter did double duty and was consistently entertaining as he gave humour to even the most dour of lines. Alexis Kellum-Creer as Tabitha Wheelwright breezed in naturally and effortlessly as if on air and performed a killer song in the second act to boot. The ensemble as schoolkids lifted the whole show halfway through the first act in the casting of the nativity scene. It was hilarious (especially Allyson Hall) and the rest of the show sizzled with the energy ignited by it after about thirty minutes of set-up.
But leaving the best until last, I finally mention Chris Lam as Owen Meany and Anthony Santiago as John Wheelwright. Tasked with illuminating a five-foot, high pitched and some would say, religious nutter, Lam succeeded immensely. Even to this non-believers senses, he was engaging, his comedic timing was spot on and he ultimately dragged you along with every nuance. Amazingly this was topped by Santiago's closing monologue which was sincere, touching and heartwrenching. This was only achieved by his whole night's work; his smoothness and easiness invited the audience in and the close was the reward for both of us.
ETC. need to be commended in gathering what I feel has been one of the most succesful casts within the 'amateur' or more kindly, the community theatre realm that I've seen. This is clearly because the majority are actually professionals volunteering their time. One can only hope they are rewarded rightfully behind the scenes and ETC. continues their ascension to keep attracting this calibre of talent.
Photo: Javier R. Sotres