When Life Skills had its first run in 1986, Nicola Cavendish won a Jessie for Outstanding Performance by an Actress and playwright David King won Outstanding Original Play for his funny, insightful script. Thirty one years later, King has updated his play with 50 per cent new material. Like the original, Life Skills (Advanced) centres around community cable show host Hugh Malikowski (played by King), and his interview with Valerie Delaney (played by Wanda Nowicki), who is offering life skills workshops. The interview, filmed in advance at Coast Cable, is counterpointed by vignettes, illustrating various life skills in action. The contrast between the sometimes absurd, sometimes philosophical conversation between guest and host and the live acted segments provide numerous laughs, not just because the scenes are inherently funny, but because theatre goers are likely to see something of themselves amid the 11 hapless characters that grace the stage. The play employs multimedia well, projecting the interview scenes as if we are watching a giant, old fashioned television set and then projecting painted backgrounds to provide the scenery for the vignettes. Those backgrounds are all original canvasses painted by local Coast artists, including Marleen Vermeulen, Coralie Swaney, and Tia Rosypskye, to name just three who participated in the project. The original canvasses are hanging in the theatre lobby so be sure to check them out at intermission.
King is thrilled to be mounting his re-worked play here on the Coast, where he has been a resident since 2008. King and play director Dave Hurtubise have known each other professionally for many years and are happy to be working together again. The actors, all local, many of them professionals, participate in a play reading group. When Hurtubise was asked by the Playhouse to direct a play, he brought the reading group King’s script and they loved it. Nine actors, working in pairs, take on 24 roles through 13 vignettes. Life skills one might glean from this play are “When To Stop Eating,” featuring a very funny Marcia Forst playing a character who can’t stop eating while her companion recounts his suicide attempt. Or “Accepting Religion” which again sees Forst playing a character who invites a baffled Kevin Crofton as a Jehovah’s Witness into her home to help her dress for brunch. In “Fitting In” Crofton plays an overbearing partner to Susan Rule, crushing her confidence just when she needs it most. These are real people in real situations, and just as in real life, things don’t always turn out well. But humour is the one life skill we can all try to use a little more.
Life Skills (Advanced) runs at the Gibsons Heritage Playhouse March 16, 17, 18 and March 23, 24, 25 at 7:30pm plus March 19, 2pm matinee. Tickets $20 at Laedeli Gifts, Sechelt Visitor Centre, share-there.com or at the door.