Alberta Theatre Projects playRites 2004
Down the Main Drag

Starring: Jeff Lillico, Tara Hughes & Trevor Leigh
Written by: Steve Laplante
Translated by: Crystal Beliveau
Directed by: Dennis Garnhum
FFWD - Feb 19, 2004
Jane McCullough

I’m not sure what it is about Quebecois theatre, but it has a life all its own – one that honours human emotion and taunts societal norms. Down the Main Drag by Steve Laplante, making its English-language debut at playRites in a translation by Crystal Beliveau, is a fantastic tale that balances whimsy with weight and whip-smart dialogue. The play is about Him, who wakes up one morning convinced that his father disappeared the night before. While everyone on the main drag knows that Him’s father has really passed away, the young man spends the day searching for his father’s whereabouts, and coming to terms with his grief.

Dennis Garnhum is a hip director with a keen eye for style, and has made wonderful choices regarding the staging of the play. Every element of the mise-en-scene is the perfect fit in this little corner of the world – which makes this production as stimulating to watch as the script is to read.

The entire cast does a fabulous job engaging the audience in the world of the play. Each actor is so committed to his or her character that you might forget you’re at the theatre, despite the stylized surroundings. Jeff Lillico (Him) is a capable lead whose nuanced performance will move even the most reluctant viewer.

Tara Hughes plays his best friend Pal with a heartwarming level of enthusiasm and sympathy, and the chemistry between her and Lillico is absolute.

Trevor Leigh as Loverboy, Valerie Planche as The Whole Town, heather Lea MacCallum as Miss Deal the salesperson and The Family, David LeReaney as Uncle and Bloom the florist, and John Wright as Old Fart all deserve credit for their work. It requires a certain caliber of performer to take characters with generic and stereotypical names and play them with explicit emotion.

It’s not often that such a wonderful marriage between form and function exists in a show’s design – Scott Reid’s set, Jennifer Darbellay’s costumes and Jeff Logue’s lighting are fun, practical and work well together. Down the Main Drag is everything it should be – morbid, funny, honest and sad – and proves not only that life is beautiful, but coming to that realization can be too.