There are some very realistic, papier-mache pot-roasts on the coffee table, sitting beside the decapitated heads of several rubber dolls.
Munching on salad and slurping soup, the cast and crew of Trout Stanley are perched around the props.
“Look how real the roasts look,” said actor Celia McBride.
And the decapitated dolls’ heads?
“Trout Stanley is a black comedy, a romance and a tragedy,” said McBride, by way of explanation.
“And a fairy tale too — with some gruesome things,” added Montreal director Emma Tibaldo.
In the small town of Tumbler Ridge, BC, live virgin twins who look nothing alike.
Meet Sugar Cereal and Graceland, played by McBride and Moira Sauer respectively.
Graceland runs the town dump. Her sister Sugar hasn’t left the house in 10 years.
“She likes to build tragic figurines,” said Sauer.
And they don’t like birthdays.
Every year on the twins’ birthday, someone dies. And this year, the town stripper-cum-Scrabble-champ disappears.
That same night a mysterious stranger named after a fish shows up on their doorstep.
“It’s really a love story between Trout and Sugar,” said Montreal actor Graham Cuthbertson, who is playing the title role.
“It’s not really a realistic play; it’s trying to find the honesty in absurd notions and the humour behind the absurd,” he said.
It’s magic realism, said McBride.
But there are no fairies or elves running around, countered Sauer.
“And if you’re the kind of person whose brain is going to say, ‘That’s impossible,’ then you might want to switch to a different brain.”
McBride and Sauer, the co-artistic directors of Sour Brides Theatre, are expanding, after their successful two-person production Matt and Ben sold-out this summer.
The Guild Society approached Sour Brides in the fall to suggest a co-production.
“This provided us with the space and half the production resources and allowed us to hire Emma and Graham and bring them from Montreal,” said McBride.
Cuthbertson is the most recent recipient of Montreal’s Revelation Award for acting.
“There isn’t a professional actor in town who could play this role,” said McBride.
“Yeah, and anyone who wants to take it up with me can meet me at the Capitol,” said Cuthbertson, laughing.
The best thing for theatre is collaboration, said Tibaldo.
“In small communities like Whitehorse, we need to find out about each other; we need to continue to learn from each other and build a theatre that is ours — that is innovative and interesting — and you only learn that from working with people from all over,” she said.
“Things can become very insular and you become very satisfied with the way things work in a particular community, and it’s hard to go beyond it, once you get comfortable with it.”
Sour Brides has hired a number of local artists and designers who have been collaborating with Tibaldo.
“All the pockets and areas are being taken care of by creative, brilliant people,” said Sauer.
Local found-object artist Scott Price is designing the set.
“It’s like acting in an art installation,” said Sauer.
In the theatre, panels of clear, corrugated fibreglass frame the stage, a two-headed Raggedy Ann doll rests against one.
Rusty bed frames, an old truck grill and some wooden pallets lie along one wall, suggesting a trashy front yard.
“There is still a lot of placement of material to be worked out,” said Price.
“I liked the transparency of the panels; it helps to suggest the separation between reality and non-reality (found in the play).”
And the panels take the light well, added lighting designer Josh Jensen.
Linda Talbot has designed the costumes, although it sounds like some of the actors won’t be wearing much.
“My costume fits me like a bathing suit,” said Sauer laughing.
Written by Canadian playwright Claudia Dey, Trout Stanley was deemed one of the best plays of 2005 by the Globe and Mail.
“It’s got colourful, eccentric characters and a northern, small town theme,” said Sauer.
“And great dialogue,” added McBride.
“Looking at these characters we will think, ‘Thank God we’re not them,’” said Tibaldo.
“It shows us the most beautiful side of humanity and the ugliest side of humanity — it makes us realize we do everything for love.”
As Trout says in the play, “Love makes us,” said Sauer.
“I hope everyone leaves feeling a little more human — more in love with being human,” said Tibaldo.
Trout Stanley opens Thursday at the Guild Hall. It previews Tuesday and Wednesday. Preview tickets are $5.
Performances run Wednesday through Saturday until February 11th. Tickets, available at Hougen’s and the Guild box office, are $15 Wednesday and Thursday, $12 for students and seniors. Friday and Saturday shows are $18/$15.
There is a pay-what-you-can performance February 1st.
Performances begin at 8pm.