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Another GLT must-see and this time you can

The last time I left Guelph Little Theatre wanting to shout to Trib readers “You must see this show!” was two years ago, when I saw a superb production of Picasso at the Lapin Agile, an absurdist comedy set in 1904. But it was too late, as I saw the show on the final weekend of its run.
It happened again last Friday when I saw GLT’s production of Rabbit Hole, a play that won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for playwright David Lindsay-Abaire. But this time it’s not too late. The last three of the 10 stagings are on Feb. 6, 7 and 8 at 8 p.m. So I’m shouting “Ya gotta see this show!!”
I was right in my high regard for Picasso at the Lapin Agile. It was picked by an adjudicator to be one of five productions to compete at the 2012 Western Ontario Drama League theatre festival. It won the top prize there and advanced to a provincewide theatre festival.
Rabbit Hole is GLT’s pick for a possible spot in this year’s WODL theatre festival in Windsor in March.
I was amazed at the smallish size of the crowd that was out to see Picasso at the Lapin Agile in 2012. And I was also surprised more seats weren’t filled last Friday. This is a show that deserves to be packed.
Rabbit Hole is a play that deals with the way family members survive a major loss, and it includes comedy as well as drama. Most of the responsibility for the comedy rests on Jane Watson, a professional stage and film actress who moved back to Guelph from Toronto with her actor husband John Watson a few years ago. She plays the role of Izzy, and her performance is worth the price of admission all by itself.
Izzy is the younger sister of Becca, the central figure of the play. Becca is played by Michele Di Tomasso, in what seemed to me a note-perfect performance. The play’s other three actors – Robin Bennett as Becca’s husband Howie, Susan St. John as Becca’s mother Nat, and Alex Clay as non-family-member Jason – were all great as well.
It’s a play in which note-perfect performances are crucial. As first-time GLT director Roberta Belfry observes in the program notes: “Rabbit Hole is a beautifully crafted piece that is deceptively difficult for actors. The seemingly casual conversations are so precisely ordered that each word has the power to carry the weight of the entire play.”
The corollary would seem to be that each word has the power to capsize the entire show if wrong notes are hit. But there was no capsizing, just captivation at GLT.
There’s nothing like live theatre, and it’s not as if GLT has much competition in the local market. Theatre groups have come and gone, including a couple that performed regularly at the River Run Centre in years gone by. The other place in town that regularly offers worthwhile theatre – albeit with student actors – is the theatre department at the University of Guelph. Its thought-provoking adaptation last fall of the George Orwell novel 1984, influenced by ex-NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, is a good example of theatre well worth seeing. At a very low price, to boot.
I’m often surprised by the number of empty seats at Guelph Little Theatre. It’s always an affordable night out and usually a highly entertaining one as well.
The times it’s full seem to be when it presents crowd-pleasing comedies, especially if a little skin is shown – as with two of last season’s shows, Full Monty and Calendar Girls. That’s too bad, because the payoff from plays like Rabbit Hole and Picasso at the Lapin Agile is so much deeper and longer-lasting.
Guelph Little Theatre has a theatre space that’s relatively big in its world of community-based, volunteer-run amateur theatre organizations. It’s also a space that’s relatively expensive to operate. GLT replaced all of its seats with 250 better seats before it hosted the WODL festival last March, and it’s still trying to pay off this cost by selling $200 naming rights to individual seats. It’s still $10,000 short of paying off the cost of the new seats. But GLT soldiers on, as it has since it was formed in 1935.
It’s an organization worth supporting. But if you go to see Rabbit Hole this week, the favour you’ll be doing is to yourself. dhallett@guelphtribune.ca

One Response to “Another GLT must-see and this time you can”

  1. aspreadb says:

    I completely agree with everything that was mentioned. However you forgot about Royal City Music Productions that has been around in Guelph since 1978. They put on two full musicals every year. wwwrcmpi.ca

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