Comedy and heartache collide onstage during Nanaimo Theatre Group’s presentation of The Melville Boys.
The play opens the theatre group’s season on Oct. 11. The Melville Boys, written by Norm Foster, is a story about two brothers, Owen and Lee, who arrive at a lakeside cabin for a guys’ weekend. Their plans are thrown out of whack when two sisters, Mary and Loretta, arrive.
Lee is married and Owen is engaged. However, soon Owen and Loretta, played by Cindy Peters, appear to be developing a relationship. The older siblings are left trying to rein in their younger, more immature, sister and brother. Lee and Mary, played by Heather McLeod, find themselves spending time together in the cabin while their siblings are off engaged in other escapades and start sharing personal stories.
Director Dave Eaton has directed plays for other theatre societies, but it’s the first time directing for the Nanaimo Theatre Group. He said the play explores real people and their emotions and relationships.
“Its real people talking about real situations… it’s not all funny, there’s life, there’s heartache in the story too. A comedy without a serious side isn’t as funny,” said Eaton. “This one only takes place over a day and a half, but there is still room there for characters to change and develop from the moment they walk on stage until their last scene.”
The situations the characters are in are relatable for audience members and Eaton said people often recognize one of the characters as someone they know. The relationship between Lee, played by Chris Ostaffy, and Owen, played by William Anderson, is often a relationship people can understand and connect with if they have siblings, said Eaton.
Ostaffy, who plays the quiet responsible married older brother of Owen, said he loves the dialogue, the humour and subject matter in The Mellville Boys. He drew from personal experiences and put himself in Lee’s situation to become the character.
The actors created backstories to take on their roles. They added details fabricated out of what the script told them to become the characters onstage. Ostaffy said it’s important to create that backstory to establish motivation and consistency.
“I want the audience to engage themselves in the story. I want them to recognize themselves or people they know in the story,” he said. I really want them to enjoy it and have fun with it.”
Eaton, who is a Norm Foster fan, said he loves the script and as a director he tries to keep true to the playwright’s intention.
“I’m a traditionalist. I like to see the play done according to the playwright’s intent,” he said. “That’s my job, to honour the playwright. It’s set in the early 1980s so our job is to be true to that time as well.”
The Melville Boys debuts Oct. 11 at Bailey Studio, located at 2373 Rosstown Rd., and runs every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. until Oct. 27, with 2 p.m. matinees on Oct. 14 and Oct. 21.
Tickets are $16 for weekdays and matinees and $18 on weekends and are available by calling 250-758-7224 or going to www.nanaimotheatregroup.com.