A Lesson in Brio
Written and directed by Stewart Lemoine

Teatro La Quindicina

Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival 2018,  hold-over
last show, Sat. Sept. 1., 2018

Varscona Theatre, 10329-83 Ave.
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

4.5 of 5 stars

Review by GRAHAM HICKS,  Hicksbiz.com

Teatro La Quindicina’s A Lesson in Brio (vitality, vigor, life, liveliness, animation, vivacity, spirit, spiritedness, etc.) is full of sweet irony, humourous manipulation of theatrical devices and positive thinking, darn it!

As always from the ever-flowing pen of Edmonton playwright Stewart Lemoine, there is a quirky, imaginative plot, gentle but deliberately contradictory themes, pathos … and a great deal of humour, in this play as much aural as visual.

Jenny McKillop steps on stage as Dr. Guinevere, with her PhD in the study of brio, which, in jocular lecturing style, she proceeds to define.

As might be expected in a Lemoine play, Dr. Guinevere then steps into the developing play as a character, having already amused the near-full Varscona house by asking, tongue-in-cheek, that audience-shuddering question, 'do we have a volunteer'? Who comes bounding down from the theatre’s back-rows but the “volunteer”,  played by the thoroughly professional Patricia Cerra.

Somehow, Dr. Guinevere ends up on a stroll through Lloydminster, where she meets Mathew (Mathew Hulsholf). Mathew has been figuratively and physically dumped by his girlfriend Destiny (yes, this is a play on words) for being so dumb as to drive the wrong way – back to Edmonton – while Destiny snoozed en route to Saskatoon for a wedding.

In a roadside restaurant, Dr. Guinevere gives poor, dumb (and very funny)  hoser-kid Mathew tips on positive thinking. 

They meet Rachel the karaoke singer from Prince Albert, equally hapless in her delusions of being a singer-songwriter. Dr. Guinevere cannot stand Rachel’s voice and demeanour, but, darn it, she is committed to positive thinking, thus gives Rachel tips on “opening” her tone-deaf, squeaky voice. 

In a scene that had half the audience (including this reviewer) in stitches, and the other half quite mystified, Rachel starts talking in the same octave-jumping manner as she sings.

The play then fast-forwards a few years.Dr. Guinevere again runs into Mathew at the same restaurant.

Thanks to Dr. Guinevere’s previous “lesson in brio” advice,  Mathew stayed in Lloydminster, found his mojo, now owns the restaurant, and has married Rachel, who, for her part, has “opened” her voice. 

The audience is treated to a gorgeous interpretation, by Rachel Bowron as karaoke torch singer, of the classic All The Things You Are.

Meanwhile, Dr. Guinevere – a la Christmas Carol's Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past - re-visits her youth and scenes of high-school bullying (by the wacky high school principal) in some kind of positive-thinking, brio-enlightening therapy …

This show is a potpourri of disparate elements, of humour, punnery, insight, pleasing local references  (“Lloydminster?” says Mathew. “I thought she said Lethbridge!”),  beautifully knit together within Lemoine’s script and under his direction.

The bad news is this show is soon drawing to a close and will likely have finished its run by the time you read this review.

Fear not, Lemoine’s always scintillating words will be back on the Varscona Theatre stage one last time in Teatro La Quindicina’s 2018 May to October season.

Lemoine’s classic screwball comedy Skirts of Fire will be re-mounted for the first time since 2003, from September 27 to October 13, 2018.  Tickets can be purchased from teatroQ.com