BWW Review: Stage West's DRINKING HABITS 2 is Easy to Swallow
There are times when you leave the theatre after a show with a bitter taste in your mouth. Perhaps there was a sad or dark ending, a seething commentary on the state of the world, or sheer confusion about one plot or another.
Drinking Habits 2: Caught in the Act is not one of those shows.
A sequel to the Tom Smith farce previously produced by Stage West in 2017, we return to the Convent of the Sisters of Perpetual Sewing not long after the events of the first show and find that things have settled down. After winning a enough money to save their convent with their secret wine, Sisters Augusta and Philamena decided to get back into the habit when the convent decides to produce a play to raise funds for Paul and Kate's orphanage. A hypnotism, a few magic tricks, and a visit from the Holy Mother herself lead to 90-minutes of hilarious hijinks and misunderstandings. Packed with physical gags and entertaining puns, Drinking Habits 2 is just plain fun.
Most of the cast from Stage West Theatre Restaurant's production of Drinking Habits have returned in their original roles with a few exceptions - thought I certainly won't compare their performances to the previous production's cast.
A combination of Tom Smith's writing and J. Sean Elliot's direction have created a world of slightly exaggerated movement and speech, that keep the story fast-paced and quick witted. This show also contains one of my new favourite puns that I know the audience understood a moment after it was too late. That is how quickly the show moves forward. I loved the combination of physicality, puns and jokes, and just a touch of incredulity. I don't dislike exposition at the end of a farce because it ties up loose ends and creates that happy-ending environment that I need from my comedies; however, there were a few plot points that I felt deserved more foreshadowing. I was given answers to questions I didn't know I needed to ask because there was no reference to it beforehand. I'm not quite sure where the line between comical nonsense and suspension of disbelief falls in this case.
Regardless of what was happening within the plot, I was thoroughly entertained by the cast of characters on stage. Those eight actors kept the energy up and matched throughout the entire 90-minute production. Sisters Augusta and Philamena (played by Natascha Girgis and Esther Purves-Smith respectively) had amazing comedic timing and chemistry with each other. I could watch them all day.
I really enjoyed the sweet and endearing nature of both Kate Madden's Kate and Luc Trottier's George - who is just plain loveable. I particularly liked Madden's facial expressions and her ability to look natural and graceful while squatting in a giant pregnancy belly. Her physical control and comedic timing were spot-on.
Elinor Holt's portrayal of the newly narcoleptic Mother Superior, and Robert Klein's magic-loving Father Chenille were an excellent example of comedy coming out of characters who take themselves too seriously. Their bumbling antics only heightened the chaos of the scene.
In a strange twist of fate, it's the perpetual runaway bride and her on-and-off fiancé, the stage frightened priest in training, that are the most grounded characters. Jeremy Lapalme plays a quirky but sincere Paul who struggles to reconcile his feelings for Sally with his duty to his father, the Father and his mother, the Mother. Sally, played by Charlie Gould, is really the only one who gets to play into the 1960s setting with Rebecca Toon's vibrant costumes. She is every career-oriented, love-sick woman who you hope gets her happy ending.
Spoiler alert: there are plenty of happy endings to go around in this show.
Drinking Habits 2 promised to be an evening of laughter and silly conflicts, and it absolutely delivered. That's all I can really ask of any show: to follow through and maybe offer up a bit of the unexpected. I was completely satisfied with my experience.