In real life Paul Dunn and Mark Crawford are a couple, but they say that’s where similarities end with the gay characters they portray in Bed & Breakfast.
“The play is not autobiographical,” Crawford said of the play, which he wrote earlier this decade. “We do not own a bed and breakfast, nor do we have any plans to,” he added with a laugh.
First of three Arts Club Theatre Company plays in Surrey this 2019-20 season, Bed & Breakfast follows big-city characters Brett and Drew as they set up a B&B in a small town, after one of them inherits a family estate.
The two-actor, multi-character show, at Surrey Arts Centre’s Main Stage from Oct. 9 to 19, is billed as “a heartfelt comedy about ‘being out,’ skeletons in the closet, and finding a place to call home.”
The Now-Leader caught up with Crawford and Dunn in a phone call as they drove a Southern Ontario highway to perform Bed & Breakfast at a festival in Blyth, a 50-minute trip from their home in Stratford.
They’ve have performed the play in several cities across Canada since 2017, including a Vancouver run at the Arts Club’s Granville Island stage last spring.
In all, Crawford and Dunn play 22 characters in Bed & Breakfast, which comes with an audience advisory for mature themes and some strong language.
“We play Brett and Drew and also their family members and people they encounter in the community,” Dunn explained.
“The youngest character is about six years old and the oldest is around 81, and we play both men and women, teenagers and kids,” Crawford added. “So that’s a big source of comedy in the play, seeing these two guys get to kind of flex our muscles and play characters we’d otherwise never get to play. I don’t get cast as a lot of six-year-old girls, you know?”
Dunn said that for an actor, a multi-character play like this comes around only so often.
“If you’re a pianist at a concert you get to play all 88 keys of the piano, and here we get to really do our whole range, and at the end it’s like, ‘Well, that’s all I got, folks. You’ve seen everything.’ Dunn said. “You get to really paint with all the colours in your box, you know.”
For Bed & Breakfast, the actors don’t change their costumes to get into character.
“So it’s not a show where we use a bunch of hats or anything,” Crawford noted. “For us, the character changes are all about what we do with our bodies and what we do with our voices to portray the characters. For the audience, they get to use their imagination to sort of fill in the blanks. And a lot of the characters have a vocal tick I’ve written in for them, or a catch phrase that helps identify them – like a little Pavlov’s dog bell.”
The pair are quick to credit Dana Osborne for her minimalist set and costumes for the two-hour show, and also Rebecca Picherack’s lighting design.
“The set and lighting, those are also huge components in telling this story as well,” Dunn said. “There are more tech cues in this play than I think any other show I’ve ever done. Our stage manager is incredibly busy up in the booth calling all the cues, because those shifts happen so quickly. When we move place to place, that’s all supported by a light shift and a sound shift.”
Bed & Breakfast is directed by Ashlie Corcoran, the White Rock-raised artistic director of Arts Club Theatre Company.
For the run of the play in Surrey, a number of value-added performances are on the calendar, including First Friday (Oct. 11), Paint at the Play (Oct. 12), a Pre-show Chat (Oct. 15), Talkback Thursday (Oct. 17) and VocalEye (Oct. 19). For tickets and show times, visit tickets.surrey.ca or call 604-501-5566.
The Arts Club announced the Surrey dates for Bed & Breakfast last February, along with those for the company’s other two touring shows this season, The Shoplifters and Kim’s Convenience.
Touring in early 2020 will be Morris Panych’s The Shoplifters (“comic mishaps for society’s haves and have-nots”), followed by a Kaitlin Williams-directed production of Ins Choi’s Kim’s Convenience (“the wildly popular, award-winning play, now a CBC TV series”).