It only takes two to tour theatre

Too broke to hire seven actors, Nova Scotia's Frankie Productions decided to stage Lauchie, Liza and Rory with only two.

Too broke to hire seven actors, Nova Scotia’s Frankie Productions decided to stage Lauchie, Liza and Rory with only two.

“It made casting the two twins a lot easier,” said actor Christian Murray, who plays the identical brothers and a host of other characters, including a wry spinster.

And with only two actors performing a seven-person show, “it makes for some interesting staging,” he said.

The four-person card game proved particularly tricky.

“I remember watching it and thinking that is was so beautiful, but would be really hard to do,” said Natasha MacLellan, who later ended up replacing the original actress.

“At the time I remember thinking, ‘That’s so amazing – I’m glad I don’t have to do that,’” she said with a laugh.

“Now, I do.”

Based on a short story by Sheldon Currie, author of Margaret’s Museum, the play is set in a company duplex on the East Coast – one twin living on each side. Enter the girl, a vivacious dancer who turns the brothers’ world upside down.

“It’s a 20-year love story,” said Murray. “Almost unrequited love.”

It’s also about making choices, said MacLellan. “And being faithful to the choices you make.”

The show which opened as a 45-minute one act in the early ‘90s, evolved into a full-length production with the author’s help.

“We’d find great lines like, ‘I guess death is a lot like rum, the truth comes out in it,’” said Murray. ‘And we’d bring it to Currie, and he’d say, ‘Oh that’s good, I don’t remember writing that.’”

Rehearsing proved even more difficult than the writing. “It’s so technical,” said Murray. “Everything has to be exact.

“Plus my wife is the director,” he added with a grin.

Switching from one character to another has been a challenge, but it’s also been a boon.

“It’s partly why the production has legs,” said Murray. “People say they’ve never seen anything like it.”

The quirky staging has taken the show as far as New Zealand, and Murray has Scotland on his radar.

“But this is the first place we’ve been told to watch for elk and bison on the road,” he said, talking about the road trip to Haines Junction where the show was performed on Saturday.

Touring theatre can be a tough gig. “Sometimes you only get three in the audience,” said MacLellan.

“That’s the nature of developing new work, because people have never heard of it, it’s hard to get them to come out.”

Canada, unlike England, doesn’t have a thriving theatre culture, added Murray.

“In London, people pay 20 pounds just to stand, and when a new play comes out in Ireland, it’s front page of the Dublin Times.

“When is the last time that’s happened with the Globe and Mail?”

But when Lauchie, Liza and Rory toured the East Coast, there were some surprises. In the tiny hamlet of West Margaree, where MacLellan grew up, 55 people crammed into the community hall.

The next day, the show saw that many people again, with one of MacLellan’s father’s friends walking in at the end.

The longtime construction worker had already been to see it the night before, and MacLellan wondered why he was back.

It turned out, he and his family had gone home and gotten into a heated debate about which character said what at the end of the show. So the next day, figuring out when the production was ending, he came back to see who was right.

Coming to the show as a family, then going home and talking about it -“I just thought that’s what theatre could be,” said MacLellan.

Lauchie, Liza and Rory plays at the Yukon Arts Centre Thursday through Saturday, starting at 8 p.m.

Contact Genesee Keevil at gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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