BWW Review: Soulpepper's BED AND BREAKFAST is Fully Booked with Love and Laughter

BWW Review: Soulpepper's BED AND BREAKFAST is Fully Booked with Love and Laughter

Mark Crawford's BED AND BREAKFAST is a two-man show stuffed to the brim with vibrant, interesting characters. After inheriting his small-town Ontario family home, Brett (Gregory Prest) packs up his life in Toronto and opens a bed and breakfast with his partner Drew (Paolo Santalucia).

Produced by Soulpepper and directed by Ann-Marie Kerr, the show runs just over two hours and follows Brett and Drew as they adjust to, learn about, and slowly fall in love with life in their new town. What really makes this show work is the ensemble of characters - growing up in a town much smaller than Toronto, I know my fair share of the personalities we encounter in this play. One of the reasons Prest and Santalucia's portrayals come across so naturally, is that we've all met these characters before - and getting to step into their world for an evening is like catching up with old friends.

Prest and Santalucia's ability to shift in and out of characters, sometimes in rapid-fire succession, is one of the highlights of the show. A perfect example of this is the parade planning meeting, which turns into a hilarious back and forth between six characters. The frequent quick changes were handled just as well. While there are no grand costume changes, the costume design (Ken MacKenzie) transforms the two actors instantaneously with the addition of various accessories. A necklace transforms Prest into the quirky, goofy café owner Alison; a baseball cap brings out the surly, quiet Doug in Santalucia.

Naturally, Prest shines as the central character Brett, delivering some heavy moments as well as a great collection of one-liners. Brett is a conflicted character who struggles with what's best for Drew and himself, but that's not his entire personality. Brett has a fantastic sense of humour, a love for Rick Mercer, and a soft spot for the old dog owned by his neighbour.

Aside from moving the story along with Brett, Prest's portrayals of side characters Alison, Ray (Drew's dramatic realtor friend), and Dustin (Carrie's son) are highlights. All three are imbued with a flair for the dramatic that Prest nails - it's never exaggerated enough to make them unlikeable.

Co-starring as Drew, Santalucia nails every aspect of Drew. He's funny, sweet, and supportive of Brett - but he is also willing to call out his partner for any wrongdoings. Drew is sure of himself and his identity in a beautifully pure way. His constant refusal to change for the smaller-minded members of his new community makes him one of the most admirable characters in the show.

Filling out the rest of the cast, Santalucia brings all the old characters from Brett's childhood to life. He delivers a grounding performance as the handyman Doug and his Carrie is the gossipy-yet-sweet girl everyone knew in high school. As Chris, he delivers one of the most powerful monologues in the show and as Cody, he completely aces his portrayal of Brett's teenage nephew.

The show's story is concise yet powerful - subversive yet sweet - and more emotional than the promotional materials let on. Characters grow and change, and learn with a sense of realness that can get lost in most shows. Having an opportunity to watch this journey in the capable hands of Prest and Santalucia is a real treat.


BED AND BREAKFAST runs through September 2, 2018 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane, Toronto, ON.

For more information or to buy tickets, visit soulpepper.ca

photo credit: Gregory Prest and Paolo Santalucia, by Cylla von Tiedemann

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