COVID-19 forced theatre companies into planning diverse presentations other than live shows. About 18 months after the live theatre shutdown in the region, Teatro La Quindicina is one company that survived the crisis trying a hybrid approach.
Currently, the prolific Edmonton-based company integrates two Stewart Lemoine plays. A Fit, Happy Life streams until Oct. 31 even as the live production, Feverland, switches on the stage lights at Varscona Theatre on Sept. 23 to Oct. 10.
Former St. Albert resident Kristen Padayas was tapped for both productions. In A Fit, Happy Life she gives a tour-de-force performance as lead female actor playing five different women, and in Feverland, she is assistant director.
Now based primarily in Calgary, Padayas (Bearcat, The Man That Got Away) arrived in Edmonton at the end of July for a two-week rehearsal before filming for three days. The two-hander stars Mathew Hulshof as Mike, a department store mattress salesman who is relatively happy with his job. Padayas plays five different women who peruse the merchandise and create havoc in his life.
There’s Mrs. Park, the wife of wealthy financier who enjoys role-playing. Christine Pink-Wallace is married to a world-renowned Egyptologist and knows what she wants. Seventeen-year-old Patty-Anne Holliday is bit of a furniture sales groupie, while elements of the supernatural are introduced through Hanna who declares she’s immortal. Lastly, Ariadne Wells is the store’s travel-loving intercom operator.
“Stewart writes great female characters. He gives them so much to chew on,” said Padayas. “They want Mike, but they also lean on him for something else.”
The play boils down to the way a man deals with people and how it brings happiness to his life.
“It’s about how and why Mike does it. His interactions could be shallow, but he goes above and beyond. He makes his mundane life full of intention and meaning.”
Over to Feverland, Jenny McKillop, who has a knack for tackling daffy characters, takes the lead as Betsy in this 90-minute production. It was originally scheduled to close Teatro's 2020 season and returns for the first time since 2004.
Set in Winnipeg 1966, it focuses on Betsy, a career focused teacher who is reserved, but gentle and leads a quiet life. Betsy auditions for a choir and somehow becomes involved in an illicit affair with unexpected complications from left field.
McKillop, also a former St. Albert resident, was pretty tight-lipped about the production. However, she did mention there are characters based on mythology and the supernatural.
“[Betsy] has to overcome several physical and emotional barriers and is helped by supernatural beings. Stewart has created something unusual because of the supernatural elements and magical realm, but the focus is on adult relationships,” McKillop said.
She added, “It’s unlike any play I’ve seen. It’s surprising. It’s complex. There’s lots of laughs and it’s quite heartbreaking.”
The cast also includes April Banigan, Cathy Derkach, Garett Ros, and Andrew MacDonald-Smith.
Tickets for both productions are available at www.teatroq.com. Teatro requires ticketholders to provide proof of vaccination.