Theatre Sarnia


2016 - 2017 Season

Willow Quartet

2016 - 2017 Season

Theatre Sarnia’s Handbill


Willow Quartet

Theatre Sarnia: Willow Quartet; Beautifully Crafted Story That Unfolds At Its Own Pace


Sunday January 29, 2017


by Brian Hay


They built a house for this show.


It was nothing less than the production warranted though. The ensemble cast featuring Elizabeth Walton, Richard Teskey, Jeff Winter and Karissa Teskey was splendid. Jeff Winter’s portrayal of ‘Ben’ was that of an individual concealing rampaging emotions behind a facade of casual civility. His body language, expressive in its restraint, along a nonchalance in much of his verbal delivery conjured a mask for a character whose depth unfolded as the layers of his personality were peeled back. Richard Teskey offset the rural aspect of Winter’s characterization with a projection of urban refinement that was both thorough and entirely convincing. His ‘Jim’ was a picture of the elevated sort of persona that makes individuals appear patronizing even when the warmth they extend is spontaneous and wholly genuine.


Karissa Teskey conveyed both rural and urban influence in the personality of ‘Kim’, a woman lost within herself but actively seeking a way through the events of her recent past. She was, by turns, vivacious and filled with life, yet haunted and ready to turn morose or angry in an instant,. The tension in her demeanour made her, literally, the one others would avoid or dread being around equally. As ‘Marjorie’, Elizabeth Walton was the picture of salt of the earth with a tough crust concealing tender vulnerability and even paralyzing fear lying just beneath her surface. Her delivery and the body language she invariably finds to use with it are a combination that (for me anyway) stops everything else in its tracks. It always has, and, it seems it always will. She’s just that good, and this time was no exception.


That doesn’t mean she fails to play well with others. If anything, her contributions serve as a catalyst that helps bring everything together. That was certainly the case here because this group fit each other like pieces of puzzle made by far hands far more sensitive than anything a single person could assemble. Director Jay Peckham was right to say he could only marvel at this ensemble. But more on that in a bit.


They really did build a house. It had a front door, rooms, a hallway and even a porch.


The group was served incredibly well by what surrounded them. The wardrobe, set up by Jane Mulligan and Eve Vritsios fit the characters well as did the makeup that Eve created for the roles. Nothing was done to excess. The lighting, created by Catherine Souliere and operated by Nick Menard, was brilliantly subtle. The sound effects chosen by Tina Shrigley and Haley Duncan were effective and their musical choices for the piece were superb. One was exquisite, both in how it fit the scene and on its own merit. Nick Menard did a great job of placing what their work at the right moments. Scene and costume changes moved smoothly thanks to the Stage Management team of Justin Clendenning, Shawn Chapman, Kip McMillan and a number of people behind the scenes.


That house they built though, that caused a lot of double-takes as the show progressed. Designer Brian Winterton and a team that included Bill Allingham, Peter Braun, Gord Bristo, Robin Holt, Rick Mulligan and Bob Kennedy actually built a full-blown house. It had rooms, interior lighting, windows, everything needed to give the depth it needed to be convincing. It provided spots for exits, entrances, approaches, a platform for lighting to play off of, an abundance of room for the props selections by Rachelle Lacroix and Mary Jo Webber; in short, everything needed for the staging of the production.


It was something Director Jay Peckham must have enjoyed having to work with because he took full advantage in a way that made it seem like the foundation to develop Joan Burrows beautifully crafted story and characters on. He drew rich and varied performances from his cast, kept just the right amounts of movement in place and took obvious joy in letting the tale unfold at a pace it seemed to set on its own.


It’s a great production, one everyone involved with can be proud of. The standing ovation at the close attested to that. And by the way, they really did build that house, and in just a single day no less.


This performance took place at the Imperial Theatre in Sarnia Ontario on Saturday January 28th, 2017. The article was written to convey the impressions (and double-takes) of one who was lucky enough to attend.

The articles and site design are my own. Promotional materials are the property of Theatre Sarnia. 


Brian Hay © 2016