Theatre Review – Stewart Lemoine’s The Exquisite Hour

This play is a charmer. It is also poignant and sentimental, yet laugh-out-loud funny. Sometimes we need gentle humour in our lives, and Lemoine, based in Edmonton, is not afraid to write plays that could be considered retro. All the more power to him.

It’s understandable why Ted Dykstra took on the role of Zachary Teale. It is absolutely against type. This outstanding actor/director is known for his outgoing, in-your-face personality. Zachary Teale is a bespectacled middle-aged nebbish, a confirmed bachelor who is a merchandise supervisor at Abernathy’s department store. The play is set in 1962, which is a more innocent age. This is not a play that could take place today. The Exquisite Hour is like watching a much-beloved old film on Turner Classic Movies.

When we first meet Zachary, he is in his backyard enjoying lemonade laced with bourbon. There he is – his trousers pulled up high above his waist, his chequered shirt covering an old-fashioned undervest that our fathers and grandfathers wore.

Into this serenity comes Mrs. Darimont. Actor Daniela Vlaskalic is wearing a big brimmed straw had with flowers on top, a shirtwaist dress widened by a ton of crinolines, super flat shoes, a large purse, and the de rigueur white globes. Congratulations to designer Marzena Cegys for both the period costumes and the lovely set – a fence with flowers spilling out over the top, and the sweet out door garden chairs and table.

It turns out that Mrs. Darimont has come to sell Mr. Teale the 1959 version of a set of encyclopaedias. She has brought “H” along to show Mr. Teale how the encyclopaedias can be used to create conversations, which is an excellent way to get to know people if you are shy – a perfect fit for Mr. Teale.

This is where director Ron Pederson comes into play big time. The vignettes with random “H” selections gerrymandered into a conversation that Zachery and Mrs. Darimont act out are absolutely hilarious. Imagine conversation starters that include the Belgian St. Hubert, the Hohenstaufen noble family, and while Hannibal is the third selection, they don’t quite get to converse about the famous conqueror of the Alps, because other things are happening between them.

Pederson’s direction is belly laugh funny, but he is also aware of the changing relationship between the two, and to give away the ending would be grounds for murder, so I’ll keep silent. Suffice it to say, that Pederson understands the dramatic arc of the play, and under his sympathetic direction, his excellent actors convey every subtle nuance of their encounter.

This play is a run-don’t-walk. It’s a most satisfying, old-fashioned theatre experience.

Stewart Lemoine’s The Exquisite Hour, The Theatre Department, (starring Ted Dykstra and Daniela Vlaskalic, directed by Ron Pederson), Factory Studio Theatre, Apr. 18 to 29, 2012

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