Centaur’s Roy Surette and star Nicola Cavendish bring yet another winning production to Montreal audiences

Nicola Cavendish is back on the Centaur stage to co-star in the theatre’s production of Bakersfield Mist by Stephen Sachs. This comedy is a co-production with The Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver. Nicola is a favourite of Montreal and Canadian theatre goers; in particular for her signature starring role as Shirley Valentine; a play that ran for many years and was also a successful film. “People thought that I was Shirley Valentine,” Nicola stated as we enjoyed a working lunch at Restaurant Bonaparte next door to the theatre. “I also performed here in Michel Tremblay’s For The Pleasure of Seeing Her Again and most recently in Colleen Murphy’s wonderful The Goodnight Bird.”

“My character, Maude Gutman is a real life person who worked as a truck driver and bartender. She’s had a tough life, lives in a trailer park in southern California and was married to a mean man. She’s a tough woman and her character has a ‘rich’ mouth. Maude purchased a painting at a yard sale for $3; and the more she looks at the work of art, she wonders if the painting is a Jackson Pollock and possibly worth $millions.”

This is where the audience meets the theme of the Sach’s play. How do we as a society attach worth to art and other possessions? This in turn relates to questions of self worth. Which is worth more – a painting or a person’s dignity? A person with university degrees or a person without a formal education? Nicola and I discussed this aspect of the play at length. After seeing her outstanding performance; my best advice is to go see the play and you’ll find the answer in Maude’s character.

During one of several poignant moments in this comedy, Maude asks if for once – just once – in her life something good could happen to her. Who among us hasn’t asked that same question in a dark moment of reflection?

Jonathan Monro is a multi-talented actor and musician. Trained as a classical pianist, he made a debut performance at New York’s fabled Carnegie Hall when he was just 16, and then went on to train as an actor. Since his 1997 debut at Stratford, Jonathan has performed there for seven seasons. He’s taken on roles at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre and has four seasons at the Atlantic Theatre Festival in Halifax. Musically, his career includes being Musical Director for The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravitz and being part of the original Canadian cast of The Producers. He is also composing the music and lyrics for the upcoming musical adaptation of Roch Carrière’s famous book; The Hockey Sweater.

“It’s a challenge to play a miserable person, but I enjoy ‘selling’ the role of Lionel,” states Jonathan about his character. Lionel Percy is the urbane New York art evaluator who seems to be a person without a scrap of humanity. A secondary challenge is holding his own with Nicola’s incendiary Maude. Monro proves that he’s up to the task and his performance is a fine complement to the success of this production.

Set designer Pam Jackson uses the entire stage to create the inside of Maude’s trailer-home, jam-packed with kitschy souvenirs that Maude has liberated from other people’s castoffs.

“I come at this play hard and heavy,” stated Nicola. “Maude is a hero because she has an indomitable spirit and she’s been able to stand alone.” Playwright David Fennario once told me that a play “has to first and foremost be a good night out;” Director Roy Surette, Nicola Cavendish and Jonathan Monro deliver that “night out” on all counts. We left the theatre feeling uplifted and warmed despite the chilly winter night.

Bakersfield Mist continues at The Centaur until February 26. For tickets please call: 514-288-3161 or online: www.centaurtheatre.com Enjoy!

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