Photo by David Cooper
The lead character may lose her husband in a bar bet, but together Richmond’s Gateway Theatre and Ruby Slippers Theatre have a winner on their hands in I Lost my Husband. This follows on the heels of their successful co-production last year of You Will Remember Me.
The play opens with karaoke and a heavy rock beat, in a bar. Evelyn sings the blues in so many ways. Played by Meghan Gardiner, she is not content with life or her husband, who refuses to fund her dream of getting her own Tim Horton’s franchise.
The barkeep Melissa, played by Agnes Tong, is sassy to the point that Evelyn says Melissa doesn’t have the soul to be a bartender because, “You just don’t get drunk people.” This is not an evening of drunk jokes but does offer a little of the “in vino veritas,” allowing hidden truths to slip out when lubricated by alcohol.
When karaoke regular, Evelyn, bets Melissa she knows all the bar’s songbook by heart, she has nothing but $5 in her pocket for her side of the wager. Melissa suggests Evelyn’s husband as collateral. The results of the bet beget the name of the play, I Lost My Husband.
The audience’s laughs all evening were hearty and came easily. The script, in its English world premier, as translated by Leanna Brodie from Catherine Léger’s original French, is crisp, quick and offers a Quebecoise sensibility while including up-to-date social and political references, including the impending legalization of marijuana in Canada.
Curtis Tweedie as William, Evelyn’s adult stepson still living at home, is outstanding, as are all the actors in this production. He wiles away his time watching TV, playing video games and smoking up, which brings in the fourth onstage character, Steve the Dealer hilariously played by Taugi Yu, is given lines like you have no idea what it’s like: “The life of a lonely dope dealer,” as he bemoans the fact that others in the same line don’t socialize and trade business tips, while those in different enterprises don’t want to know him.
The last character, never seen but always present in the dialogue, is Evelyn’s husband who left his first wife for her and is now, after the bet, living with the much young barkeep, Melissa.
The universality of the message of life’s discontent that comes from blaming others, sings through Diana Brown’s direction. The use of black-outs for scene transitions works well. With unnecessary action and dialogue assumed, the play hums along quite quickly.
With a crisp, clear script comes just enough of a set to create each scene, clear and crisp sound that can be heard in every inch of the audience, and lighting that highlights the action without being obtrusive. Mishelle Cuttler designed the soundscape with obtrusive music that creates the atmosphere when needed.
It all mounts up to good news for Ruby Slippers and Gateway Theatres.
Now the bad news: the whole run is sold out. It sold out before opening night, but keep I Lost My Husband on your radar because the producers hope to remount this gem before too long. It might be worth calling the Gateway Theatre as sometimes season ticket holders are unable to use their tickets to a specific play. There might be a few turned in. For this play, it’s worth the gamble.
If you were lucky enough to get tickets, the theatre gets quite warm so dress in layers.