The best game you can name on stage
Since hockey is Canada’s national sport – some might say almost a religion – a play about it would seem to be a great opportunity for a community theatre company to preach to the converted.
White Rock Players Club is making that bet with Quesnel playwright Roy Teed’s popular The Good Game, which opened Wednesday and runs to Feb. 23 at Coast Capital Playhouse.
Aside from the boundless passion of fans, there’s another compelling reason for local theatregoers to check out this comedy about four over-the-hill hockey players re-uniting to face a much younger team for a charity game, according to first-time director Lisa Pavilionis.
“It’s very, very funny,” she said of the play, set mainly in the locker room of the local ice arena in the semi-mythical small town of Nestor. “It’s basically non-stop laughter for me – but it also has its serious moments. There’s even a touch of romance in there.”
That’s courtesy of the awkward reunion, 30 years after their last row, of CBC personality/producer Samantha Brewer (Lynne Karey-McKenna) and old flame Zack Taylor, former captain of the Nestor Newtons (Paul Cowhig).
“She was the radio reporter who used to work at local station CWAM before she was taken to Toronto by the mother corporation,” said Pavilionis. “She’s coming back to do a radio documentary on the game with the current colour commentator, Brian B (Keaton Mazurek), and another guy, Jim (Dave Carroll), who’s also come back from the old days.
“Zack is the quintessential hockey player, who would have made it to the NHL if he hadn’t wrecked his knee, and ended up staying in Nestor and taking over his father’s garage business.”
Teed’s observational humour comes to the fore in The Good Game with such typical hockey characters as Francois ‘Pinky’ La Vac (Roger Meloche).
“He was the lovable, huggable guy on the team – everyone’s excited to see him again,” Pavilionis said. “He has a style, an elegance and finesse, and he’s not afraid to dress flamboyantly. As one of the characters says: ‘Pink shirts or not, he was a hell of a hockey player.’”
This is Meloche’s second time playing the role, following a Stage 43 production in Coquitlam, Pavilionis said.
“He’s wonderful at it.”
Pat McDermott plays goalie Charlie Boyd – “a crude guy who’s also very lovable,” Pavilionis said.
“Sometimes he doesn’t think about something before he says it. And, as a goalie, he’s a different breed. As Zack says: ‘Goalies twitch more, they puke more. They have a different outlook from the rest of us – that’s because 200-pound goons are shooting pucks at them all the time.’”
C.J. McDonald (Andrew Wood) was the Newtons’ own goon, not afraid to take players to the boards or weigh in when fists started flying.
“I’ve been in games where C.J never even looked at the puck,” says one character.
But C.J. has the most interesting character arc of all, Pavilionis said. “When he comes back 30 years later he’s an English teacher – all prim and proper. The other guys are flabbergasted.”
Pavilionis has had a great time in her first directing experience, she said. Not only is she a hockey fan, she’s also enjoyed working with actors who’ve been cast together before in other community theatre shows. Their exuberant natural camaraderie, plus the loan of hockey equipment from a local dealer, provides a great sense of authenticity, she said.
In fact, her biggest challenge has been curbing the spur-of-the-moment floor hockey games that put a couple of holes in the set during rehearsals.
“Those guys – once they get a hockey stick in their hands…”
The Good Game may be Pavilionis’ first time helming a show, but she’s far from a newcomer to the Players Club. From being a panto chorus member (she first started in Grade 7), to doing just about every backstage job there is, she’s also co-produced and produced shows, assistant directed and served as a Players Club board member.
“Ever since I assistant directed, I’ve wanted to direct, and every year (Players Club president) Dave Baron has turned to me and said ‘what about next season – do you want to go for it?’”
But she was hesitant, she said, wanting to make sure she picked the right play for her debut. That The Good Game was that right show, she has no doubt.
“In fact, I told them the only way I’d direct this year was if I did this play,” she said. “Dave gave me two other plays to choose from, but I told him ‘Dave, why would I do something I enjoy, when I can do something I love?’”
For tickets ($18, $16 students, seniors and Coast Capital Savings members), call 604-536-7535 or visit www.whiterockplayers.ca