If you can’t laugh at your prime minister, then who can you laugh at?
That’s the question posed by the creator of the new locally written and produced play State of Confusion, currently taking the stage at the Schubert Centre.
Vernon playwright/director Michael Poirier’s latest offering from Back Stage Theatre has its funny moments. In fact, it mixes humour along with a bit of politics, not so much in that Air Farce/Rick Mercer kind of way, with impersonations and rants, but with a cute story about a fictional prime minister, his daughter, and the boy who comes between them.
State of Confusion is really a story about personal relationships – the tagline here is: “Running a country is easy; raising a teenager is complicated.”
The play opens as sweet 16-year-old hockey player Mathew Cave (Disney-aged Ryan Gosling look-alike Gavin Opp, who embodies the role) meets a young, shy woman at the rink after his game.
There is an instant attraction between the two, despite the fact she has a “buff” guy in aviator glasses standing over her, watching her every move. Eventually it’s revealed the girl is, in fact, the daughter of the prime minister, Elizabeth Cauldwell (the endearing Starling Taylor), and the guy in dark glasses is her poker-faced bodyguard Carl Wagner (scene stealer Gabe Newman).
Mathew is unfazed and promptly tells Elizabeth that his father is also a leader, of a construction firm in Ottawa.
This fish-out-of-water story really starts when the two arrange to meet at the “Man Cave,” make that Mathew’s home.
Working class dad Wendell “Dell” Cave (the delightfully expressive Neil Morrison) lords over his manor with the tube turned on to a perpetual hockey game, beer in hand.
Actually, his wife, the likeable and to-the- point Helen (equally likeable Kristine Larsen) is alongside her husband on the couch, lording over him.
Dell’s reaction to his son dating the prime minister’s daughter, let alone a Conservative prime minister, has him exclaiming to Elisabeth, “You’re young, you have time for therapy.”
Those jabs continue when the big guy himself, Steven Cauldwell (played in perfect bombastic fashion by Martin Niedballa), shows up at the Cave house to fetch his daughter.
Like a certain PM, Cauldwell is from Calgary, supports the Flames, and has policies that you may agree or not agree with.
He turns up his nose when offered a Molson’s, asking the Caves if they have any Guinness. In other words he’s refined, or at least thinks he is, and is none-to-pleased that his daughter is dating a peon, or that she is dating at all.
The reigns are kept on pretty tight when it comes to his family.
Cauldwell eventually sees how his ways are affecting his daughter, thanks to the protective bodyguard, who has his own side story, and Helen Cave, who doesn’t give the PM any peace – especially when she rips into him about some of his policies.
The banter between the characters holds your attention. However, though its set in the present, the play does come off as a tad dated, mostly in the set decor, with its plush puce-coloured couch and orange paint, which I’m told was meant to reflect the fact the Caves have been in their home for a long time.
However, I felt there were other things that were a tad dated. I mean, who supports the Leafs (as Dell does) these days??? And I think some of the political issues that were brought up could have reflected more of today’s concerns – women’s and First Nations land rights notwithstanding– the mission in Afghanistan, oil sand/pipeline controversy, and senate scandal are only glanced over, if at all.
But, hey this is a comedy, so we’ll let those political dogs lie.
State of Confusion continues as a dinner theatre presentation at the Schubert Centre tonight and Saturday.
It is also one of the six plays entered at the Okanagan Zone Drama Festival, and stages Tuesday at Powerhouse Theatre. Tickets for all shows are available at the Ticket Seller.