Veteran play at Pumphouse Theatre resonates life’s reality

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Throughout life people are faced with many hardships, something that Canadian playwright Norm Foster dives into in his 1984 play, The Melville Boys. The story focuses on two brothers and two sisters, forced to deal with the inevitable facts of life.

The 2015 production, directed by Ed Ogum, held its opening night Mar. 12 at Pumphouse Theatre in Calgary, Alta. The evening was full of both laughs and deep reflection as the characters’ lives slowly unraveled.

“We stuck to that period just because for us we thought there was something catchy and interesting about that time,” Ogum says of the 1980s. “Going back to it for us, we felt, was probably going to take us on a journey into discovering certain things about that time and the way people were at that time, and see how that informs us in the present day.”

 The play begins when brothers Lee Melville, played by Jayson Therrien, and Owen Melville, played by Justin Michael Carriere, arrive at their family lakeside cabin for a weekend of relaxation. The older, more responsible brother, Lee, is dying of cancer while the younger, careless brother, Owen, is soon to be married. The tension begins when Lee mentions his cancer and it becomes clear that the brothers have never truly talked about Lee’s illness and imminent demise. Melville 001 EDITEd Ogum (left) and Jayson Therrien (right) are both actively involved in Calgary’s arts scene, and are excited to show their production of The Melville Boys.

Photo by Skye Anderson

To make things even more interesting, two sisters that live at the lake stumble upon the brothers. Mary, played by Samantha Duff, and Loretta, played by Kayte Davies, twist the weekend events and soon the mix of people are challenged to come out of their shells. The themes of the play are carefully placed by Foster and touch on many common human feelings.

“Everybody feels trapped. Don’t you think I feel trapped once in a while?” Lee says to Mary in the cabin.

The cast performs each role so candidly and Ogum says the last scene of the play is crucial: it tells a lot about the characters and is one of the only times they speak from their hearts.

The set of the play in Pumphouse Theatre is very intimate and inviting. Between the deer head mounted on the back wall and the creaks of the wood floor, you truly feel like you are in the cabin where the events take place.

Although the play is over 30-years-old, its relevance is still apparent. The play takes the audience on a journey and it is difficult to not become attached to the characters going through the very things people experience in their lives.

Melville poster-EDITThe Melville Boys, presented by Workshop Theatre Society and Green Productions Inc. is playing at Pumphouse theatre until Mar. 21.

Poster courtesy of Neil WebbTherrien, who plays Lee Melville, says the play has managed to keep resurfacing in the theatre scene for so long because it is well written, with four amazing characters.

“They are very universal themes: being brotherhood, being cancer, relationships, accepting stuff that maybe you don’t want to accept initially, but you are faced with it and you have to,” Therrien says in an interview before opening night. “And then, realizing who you really are and what you missed out on in life.”

This is definitely a must-see play, a poignant reminder of the important things in life, like friends, family and having the courage to face fears.

The Melville Boys will be playing at Pumphouse Theatre Mar. 12 – 21.

Thumbnail photo courtesy of SueAnne Fu-Joncic

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