SUGARMAN SHINES: Delightful Classic Theatre Festival Comedy

Lana Sugarman stars in the hit Classic Theatre Festival comedy “Same Time, Next Year,” in a performance that is winning praise from audiences as well as some of Canada’s top theatre reviewers. (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

Fresh off her award-winning performance as Raina in last year’s Arms and the Man at Perth’s Classic Theatre Festival, Lana Sugarman has returned to star in the Bernard Slade comedy Same Time, Next Year, about a couple – Doris and George – who get together for an annual weekend over 25 years despite being married to other people.

Sugarman’s performance, along with her co-star Scott Clarkson, has already won applause from audiences and some of the nation’s top theatre reviewers, Iris Winston and Jamie Portman of the Capital Critics Circle. Winston hailed the production  as “A delightful opener for this year’s Classic Theatre Festival.”

Portman, meanwhile, enthused that “there are only two characters on stage, but thanks to the performances of Scott Clarkson and Lana Sugarman, we are conscious of other lives at play — unseen lives, yes, but ones that assume their own reality in Laurel Smith’s beautifully modulated production. These two performers take full advantage of Bernard Slade’s crackling comic dialogue. They trade the funny one-liners  with an ease indicative of the potent on-stage chemistry existing between them. But there’s also genuine tenderness in the relationship we’re seeing.

“Sugarman, a delightful actress, gives us a Doris with a readiness to accept the funny side of life, but she also reveals a woman with the strength and resilience to respond to change and challenge within the emerging feminist culture of the day. Clarkson, a nimble comedian, finds an unusual depth of character in George. He also is quite astonishing in giving us a man who is gradually getting older as the evening progresses. It’s an achievement that goes beyond adding a moustache to the upper lip or pencilling a bit of grey into the sideburns.”

Scott Clarkson as George and Lana Sugarman as Doris in CTF’s 2017 production of “Same Time, Next Year.” (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

Playing Doris has been a fun experience for Sugarman, who says it’s especially rewarding because we get to grow up with her. She is very earnest and naive at the beginning of the show. As time goes on we see her come into her own, going back to school, speaking her mind, running a successful business and raising four children. There is both sweetness and strength. I can relate to a lot of her characteristics.”

Sugarman sees similarities between the work of George Bernard Shaw and Slade, because both playwrights create characters who are trying “earnestly to find their way in the world. I think both of them comment on the times – examining the cost of war, falling for people who may not be deemed ‘appropriate’, all the while maintaining a fun, light tone.”

Part of the challenge and charm of Same Time, Next Year is both characters always being on stage for the length of the show. Sugarman sees a beauty in this challenge, because “you are always ‘in the world of the play,’ in a zone with no distractions. I think it can be more challenging at times for the characters who pop in and out, or enter late in the show, and have to keep the energy/continuity going.”

Scott Clarkson and Lana Sugarman in the CTF’s 2016 producton of Shaw’s “Arms and the Man.” (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

Working with her co-star Clarkson – with whom she also performed in Arms and the Man – has been a gift. “A trust is built, and I think that is essential for a show like this,” she explains. “When you feel safe as an actor you can really play, expand, and create strong, heartfelt work. I think Scott and I have a great chemistry onstage (and great boundaries offstage!), and I’m excited to take this journey with such a talented actor and fabulous fellow.”

Director Laurel Smith has been pleased with the strong audience reaction and terrific critical reception for the show. “People leave the theatre with big smiles on their faces, and they’ve had a truly rewarding experience,” she says.

Same Time, Next Year runs until July 16, Tuesday to Sunday at 2 pm, with 8 pm shows Wednesdays and Saturdays. It’s followed later this summer by Shaw’s comedy Candida and the thriller I’ll Be Back before Midnight. The Festival’s theatrical walking plays, Perth through the Ages (Wed. to Sun at 11 am) and The Lonely Ghosts Walk (Thurs. & Fri at 7 pm) round out a very full Festival summer.

Tickets are available at www.classictheatre.ca or 1-877-283-1283.

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