Zombies, book clubs and beer cans.
Not the traditional ingredients for a solid Friday night, but then again, A Comedy Revue – Whistler Style! isn’t your typical theatre production.
Whistler’s arts community will come together for Friday’s (Nov. 16) performance at Millennium Place, which will feature five outrageously divergent one act plays.
Event producer Susan Hutchinson, a stage veteran who also directed a play for the revue, was inspired by the one act productions put on by Squamish’s Between Shifts Theatre in the past.
“It’s easier rehearsal,” said Hutchinson of the one act format. “It’s easier to organize people when you’re not dealing with a big cast.”
The Comedy Revue features 12 local actors with the majority of the plays featuring three thespians each, with some performers pulling double-duty.
Hutchinson, who wanted to hold open auditions for the production but admitted she wasn’t organized in time, reached out to other locals — including writer Karen McLeod, who penned two of the plays — involved in Whistler’s emerging theatre scene.
“I got the local writer, I’ve got local dancers, I’ve got a local musician and local actors. It’s really trying to showcase the talent in this town,” Hutchinson said.
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Zombie Hordes, directed by Hutchinson, features everyone’s favourite sleuth in a case unlike any he’s ever seen. It portrays Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous character as a bumbling buffoon who is rivalled in stupidity by none other than his trusty sidekick, Dr. Watson.
“Watson is a little bit in love with Sherlock, I think. Mrs. Hudson is the alcoholic landlady who calls them out on every stupid assumption that they make, which are always wrong,” said Hutchinson.
The play features local dance troupe, The Vibe Tribe, as a funked-up zombie horde that would give the undead in Michael Jackson’s notorious Thriller video a run (or boogie) for their money.
“The rest of the cast was looking at them rehearse, thinking: ‘Wow, we really need to raise the bar here,”’ said Hutchinson.
Time Flies is an irresistibly cute production about two mayflies who realize their days are numbered, and decide to maximize their final fleeting moments by shacking up together.
Beer Girl is an offbeat script that tells the timeless tale of a man and his love for a makeshift girlfriend he constructed entirely out of beer cans.
“I really love this play. I had one last act to fill the five, and I found this play online,” said Hutchinson. “It’s kind of an alcoholic Frankenstein story. I thought anything with beer in it would appeal to Whistler people.”
The remaining two plays, written by McLeod, offer up a Whistler flavour for locals to enjoy.
Book Club was inspired by none other than Hutchinson herself, who recently joined McLeod’s book club.
“I usually get my ideas from things that people say, that’s what starts all my stories,” said McLeod. “So (Hutchinson) said a couple of funny things one night and I wrote it from there.”
McLeod’s next script is called Council’s Den, a riff on the popular Canadian series, Dragon’s Den, crammed with plenty of insider humour — including a cameo by former mayoral candidate Kristi Wells — that should tickle the average Whistlerite.
The play features a fictional RMOW council deciding on what festivals they should spend precious RMI dollars on.
“In Whistler, there’s all these festivals, you just can’t keep track. So I thought about what it would be like to pitch festival ideas to someone like Kevin O’Leary, getting shot down,” said McLeod, who has previously penned plays for The Chairlift Revue, an annual short play series that has been performed at the World Ski and Snowboard Festival for the last six years.
“I find that my ideas come and then I work them into these 10 or 15 minute plays that I seem to have the opportunity to do,” said McLeod. “I’ve submitted stories and you get a lot of rejections but when you submit locally, it’s easier to have success.”
The Comedy Revue, produced in partnership with the Whistler Arts Council (WAC), is a prime example of the strong ties that underpin the local arts community.
“The Whistler Arts Council has been a huge motivator to get more local people involved and create a cultural scene in Whistler,” said Hutchinson, who applauded the non-profit for partnering with local artists to offer performance space that they wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise.
The council is currently seeking input from the community and locally-based artists in particular, for the creation of their Community Cultural Plan, which aims to provide a foundation for Whistler’s cultural development in the coming decade.
The lack of easily accessible, affordable rehearsal space is a common issue for many of Whistler’s artists, including Hutchinson, and will be addressed in the upcoming cultural plan, said WAC’s executive director Doti Niedermayer.
“Whistler is a really expensive town and space is limited,” she said. “If you’re going to move forward and create an environment for the arts, you’ve got to find places to rehearse.”
A Comedy Revue – Whistler Style! plays Millennium Place Friday at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased for $20 at the venue or online at www.artswhislter.com.