Yukoners plan to infect Edmonton with Syphilis

Syphilis has returned to the Yukon. Ramshackle Theatre will present Syphilis: A Love Story, by local playwright Peter Jickling, this Thursday through Saturday at the Guild Hall.

Syphilis has returned to the Yukon.

Ramshackle Theatre will present Syphilis: A Love Story, by local playwright Peter Jickling, this Thursday through Saturday at the Guild Hall.

The play is back after a successful run in May 2011.

In August, the crew will take the show to the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, Canada’s largest and longest running fringe festival.

The play is about a reclusive writer named Vaughn Fischer who is commissioned to write a public health pamphlet about syphilis. He becomes obsessed with the idea that it could be a real masterpiece.

Hilarity, the cast promises, ensues.

“I’d say, like, 100 per cent probability,” said Phillip Nugent, who plays Howard Gunn, the lead character’s irritatingly ever-present best friend.

Nugent is the only new addition to the cast for this year’s run.

A born-and-raised Yukoner who currently calls Edmonton home, Nugent was hired on the spot based on the recommendation of Mary Sloan, who plays the mysterious Betty Beemer.

Nugent has performed in the Edmonton fringe festival twice before, and the other cast members say he brings a new energy to the production.

“He’s way more annoying, his character, which is good for the show,” said George Maratos, who plays the lead role.

This year’s production also features a tighter script, edited down to about an hour’s performance.

The play has become a bit of an obsession for Maratos, he said, just as the syphilis pamphlet becomes an obsession for his character within the play.

“It’s bitter-sweet for me, because as a stand-up comedian I don’t get this many laughs.”

At a rehearsal this week, the cast’s chemistry was apparent.

Between scenes, the actors joked and teased each other like the real-life versions of the friends they play on stage.

Many of the jokes centred on the premise that Vaughn Fischer’s character is based not so loosely on the life of playwright Peter Jickling.

Jickling denies the accusation.

“All the characters are little pieces of me, I guess.”

Justine Davidson, who plays Ficher’s misguided love interest, is upfront about her relationship to her character.

“I’m actually deeply disturbed at how much my character is basically me.”

The character, Lynn Flynn, sweeps back into Ficher’s life just as he becomes obsessed with writing the syphilis pamphlet.

“Her great flaw is that she’s got a bit of a thing for fixer-uppers, and Vaughn is the ultimate fixer-upper,” said Davidson.

The crew is excited to bring the show out of the Yukon.

“It’s always nice when people enjoy it Outside, that are strangers,” Maratos said.

Fringe festivals are part of a movement that aims to make theatre democratic and accessible while supporting innovative and experimental works.

The Edmonton festival began in 1982, based on a model developed in Scotland. There are now 23 members of the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals, including six in the United States.

Fringe festivals subscribe to a set of guiding principles, including that productions must be selected by lottery or on a first-come, first-served basis, and that the festival organizers may not censor any of the content of the performances.

Syphilis: A Love Story was accepted to several fringe festivals this year, but the crew chose to go to Edmonton because its festival is the biggest.

Brian Fidler is the production’s director.

Tickets for the Whitehorse performances can be purchased for $20, cash only, at Climate Clothing in Horwood’s Mall.

The show runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Guild Hall.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com