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New community theatre venture off to a strong start with Naked

It was an evening of firsts. Canadian premiere of Fiona Sprott's Often I Find That I Am Naked, directed by Eva Hamburg. First production by Whitehorse's new Larrikin Entertainment group.

Keith Halliday

Special to the News

It was an evening of firsts. Canadian premiere of Fiona Sprott’s Often I Find That I Am Naked, directed by Eva Hamburg. First production by Whitehorse’s new Larrikin Entertainment group. First show in the new theatre space at Heart of Riverdale.

It’s great to have even more community theatre in our community. And it really does take a community to put on community theatre. I counted 53 businesses and individuals who contributed everything from marketing savvy to the lumber for the theatre renovations and the muscle to build it.

The new theatre is intimate and works well for a production like Naked. According to one of the volunteers who built it, the space was designed so the seating and floor can be easily adapted to host dance and other kinds of productions. The building hosts Epic Pizza too, so it’s perfectly set up to take someone special out for dinner and a show. Naked has lots of adult scenes, providing an excellent excuse for leaving the kids at home.

Naked is a snappy three-character play which Sprott, Hamburg and leading lady Kath McCallum originally collaborated on in Australia. McCallum plays Jezebel, a woman who is successful in everything except the dating scene. In case you’re wondering how the Australian dating scene translates to the Yukon, it seemed to resonate with the Yukon singles I spoke to. There’s a reason for the saying that in the Yukon “the odds are good but the goods are odd.”

McCallum delivers some very funny lines and establishes a strong presence on the stage. It can’t be easy “breaking the fourth wall” and talking about sex directly to an audience that is so close to the action, not to mention being composed of people you probably run into at the supermarket. McCallum does a great job holding the play together.

Douglas Mayr plays “The Many Hims.” This is the succession of dismal dating prospects that rotate through Jezebel’s life. Mayr swaps shirts, glasses and hairstyles at a dizzying pace as he plays the various misfits that online dating algorithms throw Jezebel’s way. You’ll particularly enjoy his cringe-worthy forensic anthropologist as he inches down the couch towards McCallum, as well as the latter’s attempts to escape.

Jeremiah Kitchen, a young Yukon actor who works primarily in Toronto these days, plays the third man. At first he was firmly in the background as a bartender for Jezebel and one of the Many Hims. But then he stole a few scenes taking on an array of roles even more dizzying than Mayr’s. It turns out he plays a highly memorable crotch-sniffing dog with an interest in Jezebel at a cocktail party, as well as at various times her mother and her psychiatrist.

The dialogue is crisp and punchy, supplemented by some revealing text message exchanges projected on the wall (which reminded me of how the texts show up on the screen in House of Cards). Given the topic, don’t be surprised by some direct language that will remind you more of a cable drama rather than staid network television. In fact, the dialogue is even more powerful in live theatre than it would be on the screen. The same is true for the play’s most awkward and thought-provoking scenes. The forensic anthropologist just wouldn’t be the same in only two dimensions.

After the play, it was easy for this reviewer to make a verdict: you should definitely go see Naked. It’s playing until Feb. 20, Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m. at Heart of Riverdale. Tickets are $25 and you can get them online, at Dean’s Strings and Music, or at the door.

Keith Halliday is a Yukon economist and author of the MacBride Museum’s Aurore of the Yukon series of historical children’s adventure novels. He won this year’s Ma Murray award for best columnist. You can follow him on Channel 9’s Yukonomist show.