By Kelly Monaghan, June 18, 2023
The Blyth Festival in tiny Blyth, Ontario (pop. 1,000), kicked off its 49th season with “Liars at a Funeral” by Sophia Fabiilli, a smashing farce by a playwright who deserves to be better known and more widely produced.
“Liars at a Funeral” recounts the machinations of Mavis (Nora McLellan), the matriarch of a dysfunctional family suffering from an intergenerational “curse” that has resulted in divorce, estrangement, and years of silence between once close siblings.
Mavis has the brilliant idea of staging her own funeral as a way to bring all the members of the family together in one room for the first time in ages. When that happens, Mavis believes that – “Shazam!” – everything will get sorted out.
Of course, this being a farce, it’s not that simple. Once people begin arriving, we discover that Mavis isn’t the only one with a secret, and keeping multiple secrets becomes ever more complicated.
I will now seal my lips tighter than the coffin that dominates the stage at Blyth’s mainstage in Memorial Hall. Revealing any more details about the plot of “Liars at a Funeral” would spoil one of the most enjoyable theatre experiences you are likely to have this or any other season.
Suffice it to say that Fabiilli has woven together a number of diabolically clever theatrical devices to create a wickedly plotted and ingeniously worked out play, one of the best I’ve seen in a good long while. Oh yes, and it’s also uproariously funny.
“Liars at a Funeral”, under the crisp direction of Krista Jackson, is receiving something of a dream production showcasing what I can only imagine are some of the finest comedic actors Canada has to offer.
Nora McLellan, a veteran of both the Shaw and Stratford Festivals, is a seasoned pro who knows how to land a joke, which she does deftly and repeatedly as revelation follows revelation. She also proves to be an agile physical comedienne.
The rest of the cast are uniformly excellent so rather than try to single out individuals, I will simple list them: Lucy Hill, Justin Otto, Amy Rutherford, and Blair Williams.
They are are beyond good. In fact, they are so good that I bet any of them could play multiple roles in the same play so convincingly that you’d never know they were doubling.
Set designer Sue LePage has provided a suitably somber funeral parlor with four doors that slam with regularity and several purple-curtained hidey-holes that conceal a multitude of missteps.
LePage also created the costumes which, I feel safe in saying, must be far more clever than they appear. Exactly why, I cannot say, but you’ll understand once you see the show.
Lyon Smith’s sound design conjures a most convincing storm that almost turns the proceedings into one of those locked room mysteries, and lighting designer Louise Guinand follows right along.
Forgive me for not going into more detail, but I’m doing it for your own good.
Hie thee to Blyth! As Mavis might say, “Liars at a Funeral” is the best chance you have this season to “look death in the eye and grab life by the balls.”
Tickets are in short supply!
Liars at a Funeral
Through Sat. Jul 8
The Blyth Festival
423 Queen St, Blyth, ON N0M 1H0
Book Online: https://tickets.blythfestival.com/TheatreManager/95/login?event=1344
Call the box office: 877-862-5984
Kelly Monaghan divides his time between Stratford and the Connecticut shore. He chronicles his love affair with Canadian theatre at OntarioStage.com and creates theatre-themed t-shirts at TheatreTops.com
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