Theater Review: 'The Canadians'

By: 
Ben Miles

Five performers embody a boatload of characters in South Coast Repertory’s world premiere of “The Canadians,” by Adam Bock (“The Drunken City,” “Swimming in the Shallows”). A comedy, with by-the-numbers direction by Jaime Castaneda, “The Canadians” has as its protagonist Gordy, a shy but pleasant 23-year-old (believably incarnated by Kyle T. Hester) who resides near Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he plays recreational ice hockey, enjoys beer nights in the local bar and participates as a member of his community council.

Much to his delight, Gordy is invited on an all-expense paid ocean liner cruise by his flowering friend Brendan (a taut characterization by Daniel Chung) who’s been given the cruise-for-two as a gift. Did we mention that not only is it a Caribbean cruise, it’s also an annual gay cruise? The set-up allows us to see the joys, boy-toys and outlandishness that can occur for cruisers – both neophytes and sassy old salts.

Sadly, this combo coming of age/love story is full of stereotypes, predictability and even a touch of obnoxious obscenities. There a scene that supposedly takes place in the ocean liner’s karaoke bar where some of the cast sings along with “The Time of My Life” – the 1987 Oscar-winner for Best Original Song, from the film “Dirty Dancing.” Like much of “The Canadians,” the scene is high-energy but simple and derivative. And like the show itself, which is a mere 80-minutes in total, it goes on too long.

Nevertheless, with a slim conceit loaded easily foreseen outcomes, “The Canadians” has worthy talents to appreciate – in addition to Hester and Chung as Gordy and Brendan, there’s Corey Dorris, Linda Gehringer and Corey Brill in multiple roles, often playing cross-gender/cross dressing characters.

What’s more, the production values are top deck showcases, from Lauren Helpern’s varied scenic design, to Denista Bliznakova’s intricate and often ornate costuming, to Josh Epstein’s indispensable lighting motifs and Yee Eun Nam’s seaworthy projections, to Cricket S Myers’s clear and evocative sound design, each piece of stagecraft keeps this leaky plot afloat, but barely.

“The Canadians” continues on the Julianne Argyros Stage of Costa Mesa’s South Coast Rep, through Oct. 20.

SCR is located at 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.

Evening performances are Tuesdays through Sundays at 7:45 p.m. Matinees are Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.

For reservations, call (714) 708-5555. For online ticketing and further information visit www.scr.org.

ben@beachcomber.news

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