Arts & Culture

Farmers cope with reality, and humour, onstage

By Lorraine Graves

Published 2:55 PDT, Fri October 11, 2019

Last Updated: 2:03 PDT, Thu October 31, 2019

With the population of Richmond aging, the issues of love in the later years, grown children returning home and the tussle between high-output agriculture and beekeepers the Arts Club’s latest presentation at their Granville Island stage is highly relevant. 

The Birds and the Bees by Marc Crawford has something for everyone. If you have ever loved and lost, if you love laughing at human foibles or even if you love bees, this show is for you.

Crawford wrote the uproariously funny Bed and Breakfast presented by the Arts Club last spring. 

In the same mold, this is a family drama with most dramatic moments an opportunity to laugh. 

It shows people over 60 in a realistic way. Parents are no longer the buffoons off whom laughs are generated but it is rather their truths that are fodder for knowing laughs from the audience. 

The same respect is shown the 38-year-daughter returning home when her marriage suddenly crumbles. Not usually the stuff of a comedy but in this play it works.  

Enter the tenant Earl played by Tom McBeath. He’s renting the house and farmland from long-time divorcée and bee-keeper, Gail played by Susinn McFarlen.

Both actors have full palettes of skill as they take control of the stage and propel the play along with repartee. This is a Canadian play, set here – not one that pretends to be a US city while employing Canadian talent and locales. 

The issues are Canadian and also universal; farmers needing to make a go of it in tough times; bee colonies collapsing; a young grad student trying to make his way in the world while gathering data for his thesis on bees; and an almost middle-aged daughter, suddenly single, who uncertainly struggles to build a new life for herself. 

As the young grad student, Ben, Christopher Allen is lithe and funny. His physical humour looks effortless and is spot-on. 

As the daughter Sarah, returning home after 11 years of marriage and turkey farming with her husband, Dawn Petten puts in a flawless performance. 

This comedy rocks along as it also tugs at your heartstrings, showing a part of Canadian life – food production – that is rarely highlighted in the theatre. 

The other rarity is the accurate science. The young grad student says that the picture is not clear when it comes to what is causing bee colony collapse. He says it’s complicated, and it is. 

Worthy of mention are the set designer, Ted Roberts and the lighting designer, Michael K. Hewitt who have designed a flexible set that subtly changes to show the passage of time. The scenes seem to happen in a much larger place. All those who work behind the scenes has put together a production that works, really works. 

Another mention is that there is sexual innuendo in this piece. It is called The Birds and the Bees after all. In this case, it’s turkeys and honey bees, but it also highlights the need for intimacy at any age. 

With Thanksgiving this month, I suggest we stop and give a thought to the food producers, the farmers, who feed us. If you want to give a thought to them with humour, I suggest seeing The Birds and the Bees. It will show you the reality the farmers in Richmond, and around the world, live with every day. And, it will make you laugh. 

Running through October 26 at The Arts Club Theatre on Granville Island. 

For tickets go to artsclub.com or phone 604.687.1644 or email: boxoffice@artsclub.com

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