Keara Barnes (as Mary) and Ian Harmon (Jeff) in Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s production of Norm Foster’s “Screwball Comedy,” at Surrey Arts Centre on March 13 and 14. (submitted photo: Brian Giebelhaus)

‘Screwball Comedy’ brings snappy banter and goofy characters to Surrey stage

Norm Foster script on tour with Royal Canadian Theatre Company

The year is 1938, and the courageous and hardworking Mary Hayes is trying to find a new career.

She sets her sights on the male-dominated world of newspaper journalism.

The editor-in-chief pits her against his self-absorbed ace reporter Jeff Kincaid.

If Jeff writes a better story, he gets to keep his job. If Mary wins, she will replace the star newshound.

What story are they to cover?

Find out at Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s fast-paced production of Screwball Comedy, which will be touring to six theatres in March and April, including Surrey Arts Centre on March 13 and 14.

Norm Foster, Canada’s most produced playwright, penned the nod to the zany screwball comedies of the 1930s and ’40s. The play is full of snappy banter and goofy characters reminiscent of stars of yesterday, such as Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn.

Ellie King, a longtime Langley resident, is the founder of Royal Canadian Theatre Company (RCTC), and is aiming to have audience members rolling into the aisles with laughter, like she said she’s been frequently doing during the rehearsal process.

“Royal Canadian Theatre puts on lighter fare; it’s all about entertainment and I wondered if Norm Foster had anything of that sort,” King recalled. “I read the synopsis for this one and just thought it was perfect. And this one is quite new too – about 2017.”

A sub-genre of the romantic comedy, the mile-a-minute speed became popular during the Great Depression, satirizing romances and often taken place in newspaper offices.

“The perky secretary? We got one. Crusty old newspaper editor? We got one. Proper English butler? We got one,” King said. “If you’re familiar with classic screwball, people will recognize everything here. If they haven’t seen any, they’ll still have fun because the characters are so outrageous.”

For anyone unfamiliar and curious about the roots of screwball, King suggested viewing the classics It Happened One Night, My Man Godrey and His Girl Friday to get a feel for the type of humour and genre staples.

This particular production of Screwball Comedy will be the play’s Western Canadian premiere, featuring a cast of four Lower Mainland actors – Michael Charrois, Toni Reimer, Ian Harmon and Keara Barnes.

It’s the first time RCTC has done such an extensive tour across the Lower Mainland, performing at venues like the Jericho Arts Centre for the first time. The show will also be staged at The ACT in Maple Ridge (March 21-22), Chilliwack Cultural Centre (March 28) and Evergreen Cultural Centre in Coquitlam (April 14-18).

At Surrey Arts Centre, the play is part of a three-show RCTC series. For tickets and more details, call 604-501-5566 or visit tickets.surrey.ca.

READ MORE: Langley theatre producer tackles the fairest of them all for the holidays

As always, RCTC will offer a relaxed performance adapted specifically for those with intellectual or other challenges.

With a guarantee or no sudden light or cast changes, audience members are free to wander the isles and make as much noise as they wish. It will take place at 3:30 p.m. on March 6 at the Anvil Centre in New Westminster.

King said RCTC is the only theatre company outside of Vancouver to present theatre specifically adapted for those with intellectual or other challenges.

No matter who comes to see the show, King said she hopes people find fun and escape at Screwball Comedy.

“The world is not a happy place right now and so I want people to forget what’s ‘out there’ and relax, enjoy, laugh and forget about viruses and politics,” she added.

King said she will be triumphantly returning to the stage in the fall to partake in a classic comedy, which she will announce later in the year.

A traditional Christmas Pantomine performance and a comedic farce are set to follow.

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Is there more to this story?

Email: ryan.uytdewilligen@langleyadvancetimes.com

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