The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1781 Tuesday, 17 July 2001
Date: Monday, 16 Jul 2001 15:37:42 -0400
Subject: Trucker's Othello at Blythe
The following article appeared recently in the London Free Press.
Apologies for typos - I had to (*gasp*) type it out myself, since the
LFP didn't run it on its website. E-mail me if you need the article
date and I'll see if I can trace it back.
Truckers' Othello not to be missed
by James Reaney
Free Press Arts and Entertainment Reporter.
BLYTH - Othello and opera run like full-throttle big rigs alongside
truckers' tales in the Blyth Festival's heartwarming and heartrending
revival of the modern Canadian classic, Cruel Tears.
True, the music and mood of Cruel Tears by the Saskatchewan pairing of
playwright Ken Mitchell and the folk-roots band Humphrey and the
Dumptrucks, has far more to do with Prairie Opry than the Met.
But the emotional currents of this tale run true to their Shakespearean
roots in the tragedy of Othello. A handsome trucker - Johnny (played
strongly by Mark Harapiak) - and his lovely, idealistic new wife - Kathy
(played with strength, too, by Adrienne Wilson) - are increasingly drawn
into the psychological traps of a fellow trucker turned modern-day Iago.
As the Iago-like Jack, Eric Trask shows just the right cunning
intelligence to twist Johnny's joy into Shakespeare's "green-eyed
While Iago mocked the noble Moor's blackness, it is Johnny's Ukrainian
heritage that Jack targets. That heritage is celebrated in an exuberant
"kolomeyka" dance by Harapiak and a trucker pal Ricky (Christopher
Morris) as part of the wedding festivities. But it becomes more tragic
in the saga of a scarf given to Kathy by Johnny's mother. As a motif,
it becomes the Saskatchewan equivalent of Desdemona's handkerchief in
Cruel Tears, directed with plenty of tender loving care and intelligence
by Blyth's Eric Coates, a longtime fan of the show, opened Friday
night. It runs till Sept. 2 and should not be missed.
Many of the production's attractions are much lighter in tone than the
Othello-like violence and rage of the second act.
The comical pairing of the bumbling trucker Roy (Adrian Churchill) and
the libertated barmaid Debbie-Lou (Bev Elliott) creates a funny,
smart-mouth relationship. Despite the laughs at Roy's expense, the
actors and Coates bring out the poignant side of their times and tunes
As Flora, Jack's wife and the lonely mother of their "four animals,"
Michelle Fisk also brings out the pathos behind the country-style tunes
in the show. She has a fine voice and tells the tragic truth not only
about the scarf, but also about her troubled life.
Morris, as the good-hearted gull for Jack's malevolent manipulation, and
Tim Koetting, in several roles including Kathy's dad, Earl (the owning
[sic.] of the trucking firm) also jump into the script and songs.
Set and costume design (Alan Wilbee) and lighting (Louise Guinand) are
evocative without being flashy.
The Blyth production also benefits immeasurably from the presence of an
original Dumptruck. Michael Taylor, in the trio of musicians who form a
songful chorus to help tell the truckers' tales.
Reprising a rose from the first production in 1975, Taylor's singing and
guitar playing do more than keep the songs moving along. His commentary
on the action, including such priceless interjections as "she's used
goods, Earl" broke up the opening night audience again and again.
Look closely and you'll see Taylor take a welcome tug at a brew just
before racing into an extending talking blues. The song narrates the
deadly twists and turns of a car race Jack has tricked Johnny and Ricky
It was Taylor who gave Coates a copy of the Dumptrucks' Cruel Tears
soundtrack more than 10 years ago, helping inspire the director's
interest in staging the work. That gift is repaid many times over in
Taylor, Jeff Laughton (bass) and Glen Soulis (fiddle) add the right
toe-tapping country touches to the songs and even pull off a parody of a
K-Tel Records collection of 50 songs in a party scene.
As such laughs give way to the cruel tears of the play's final moment,
however, you'll need your own handkerchief by the end of this trucker's
WHAT: Cruel Tears, written by Ken Mitchell and Humphrey and the
Dumptrucks. The revival of the 1975 country and western opera is based
on Shakespeare's Othello. Directed by Eric Coates and starring Mark
Harapiak, Adrienne Wilson and Eric Trask. Michael Taylor is musical
WHERE: Blyth Festival theatre, Blyth (Ontario)
WHEN: Resumes its run Saturday ay 8pm and continues in repertory until
Sept 2. At 2 or 8 pm
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