Local Theatre Comes Back With Criminally Funny Production

Wednesday July 21st, 2021

Posted at 9:00am

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Planning something criminal, a local theatre group is set to welcome audiences back with laughter.

On Friday July 23rd, Post Productions is returning to the stage with Criminal Genius. Taking place at the Shadowbox Theatre (located at 1501 Howard Avenue,) those involved specifically picked the more comedic play to bring everyone out of lockdown with a smile.

Focusing on this aspect, the humour is something that jumped off the page from the start.

“Fay Lynn and I first read the script for Criminal Genius last spring on the recommendation of [Windsor-Essex Playwriting contest judge] Simon Du Toit,” said producer and director Micheal K. Potter, who also plays Rolly. “We laughed so much we knew we had to produce it. It’s actually really difficult to write a comedy that works on the page. Usually you need to see it performed to fully grasp why and how it’s funny.”

Revolving around a group who are seemingly in dead-ends, the show focuses on how their decisions quickly create larger problems. Staying at a seedy hotel, father and son duo Rolly and Stevie are approached by the manager Phillie to pay or get out. From there, crime boss Shirley confronts them over an arson gone wrong and things spiral out of control further when Amanda arrives.

Evolving quickly, the humour at the heart of Criminal Genius is created by these situations.

“Every character feels their way is the best one forward, but loyalties and goals are ever-shifting with hilarious results,” said outreach director and producer Nicholas Prsa, who also stars as Stevie. “We might not want to believe it, but most of us are just trying to keep their heads above water and everything together on-the-fly as they are. Being a farce, it’s swiftly-paced and our cast truly has its finger on the pulse in order to convey how much these characters want to avoid their comeuppance.”

Reading through the script, Lynn and Potter had specific actors in mind for each role. It wasn’t until comparing notes that they realized their picks were the same. As a result, auditions were skipped all together and the group went straight into rehearsals.

It also led to a reunion of the Negatunity cast, even though that wasn’t the original plan.

“This is a show we’ve had a cast in mind for since we read it,” said Prsa. “When the great David DuChene was unable to play Phillie due to border closures, Joey Ouellette stepped in and it feels like we had cast him this whole time.”

Including Lynn as Shirley and Rebecca S. Mickle as Amanda, the five have become close. Working together frequently during the pandemic, they’ve found more comfort together and recognize each other’s strengths. In turn, it also created a more relaxing production process.

This has been especially important as most rehearsals were done remotely.

“We held rehearsals via Zoom until Ontario entered stage two,” said Potter. “In fact, we’ll have only had six actual in-person rehearsals together before we enter tech week leading up to the premiere. Normally that would make me extremely anxious, but I know this cast can pull it off.”

Staged elsewhere, several choices still make this production unique. Growing up in the Prairies, Potter set the story there for example. While not picking a specific location, cast was instead directed to select an accent for themselves that was consistent with areas like Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the Dakotas, eastern Montana or western Minnesota.

It’s a small detail that informs a big part of Post’s interpretation of the events.

“Setting our production in the prairies was important to me because the story and characters reminded me so much of the little rural towns I grew up in,” said Potter. “It’s where someone could be viewed by their neighbours as a badass criminal boss just because they controlled some petty crime scheme like illegal gambling and loan sharking. When the pond is really, really small, even a guppy can seem like a big fish.”

Above all else though, cast and crew are excited to perform in front of audiences again. After filming Negatunity in an empty theatre, opening at 25-per-cent capacity isn’t something they take for granted.

“Being able to perform in front of a live audience again is going to breathe life back into theatre,” said Mickle. “Filming Negatunity was an amazing alternative in a world where live theatre wasn’t an option but there is nothing quite like performing in front of people and feeding off of their energy and excitement. I’m very excited to be able to bring Criminal Genius to this wonderful community. We may have to wear masks and social distance but I promise that won’t detract from the hilarity of this play.”

Criminal Genius will run on July 23, 24, 29. 30, 31, August 5, 6 and 7. Performances start at 8pm, with doors opening half-an-hour earlier. Tickets are only available online for $20 each and the venue’s Covid-19 health and safety policies can also be viewed at Post Production’s website.

Reduced capacity or not, the group is grateful for the support either way.

“I would tell everyone coming to see Criminal Genius to prepare for a good time and enjoy the ride,” said Potter. “I’d also thank them for helping to resurrect the local theatre scene by buying tickets and attending performances – ours and those of other companies that are coming out of Covid-imposed hibernation.”

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