UCP debuts “do or die” comedy It’s Your Funeral

Just one more hilarious “incident” at Heaven’s Rest Funeral Home: under the table is actor Derek Moran, and left to right are actors Brian Young, Kate Gordon and Aidan DeSalaiz as events spiral in the new comedy, It’s Your Funeral. (The Leader/Gibb photo)

MORRISBURG – “Upper Canada Playhouse is an impressive venue, and this is really a rocket ship of a show,” said actor Derek Moran, in the cast of the hilarious new farce, It’s Your Funeral, making its debut at the Playhouse on June 7, 2018.

It’s Your Funeral was written and directed by actor Jamie Williams, himself a veteran of some of the biggest hits in past Playhouse seasons, including 2017’s Halfway There.

This is his first play: this is also Williams’ first time as a director.

It’s Your Funeral brings to the stage the classic chaos, energy and situational comedy that audiences have come to expect from a farce: however, in Williams’ hands, it also presents them with three dimensional characters whose lives and misadventures will delightfully engage them.

Now in its final rehearsals at the Playhouse, this premiere production is built around a strong, multi-talented cast.

They are very collaborative, Williams said, “fleshing out the characters and bringing unique input to their roles.”

Brian Young, veteran of such hits as Boeing, Boeing and Last of the Red Hot Lovers, returns to the Playhouse, as the “demanding” senator, Higston Briggs.

Kate Gordon, also a veteran of five Playhouse productions, returns as “German triplets, Ima, Berta and Hedwig. Each sister has her own issues,” Gordon said, “but they honestly want to help George.”

George Cranston, the new owner of the funeral parlour where all the hilarious antics will play out, is played by Aidan DeSalaiz, who is a newcomer to the Playhouse.

“George is a recovering gambling addict,” DeSalaiz explained, “who desperately want to make a go of his business. He is very close to his wife: he’s come a long way. But,” DeSalaiz laughed, “circumstances get beyond his control.”

Another new performer to the Playhouse is Zoe Sweet, who is taking on the role of George’s wife, Helen, a woman who has stood by her man through his tumultuous past, “but I definitely want to keep him on track.” She, like George, is invested in making their new business work.

Finally, Derek Moran rounds out the cast as George’s old friend (and, incidentally, his old bookie), Rodney, who chooses a very tense time to look up his buddy. This is a return to the Playhouse for Moran, who describes this theatre as a “special place.”

“I’m actually having fun as the director,” said Jamie Williams at a May 31 press conference.

“The experience has been less stressful than I thought it would be: but I have actors in this cast that I can trust to do a great job. As a writer, it was nice for me to see what I imagined coming to life as actual ‘bodies’ play out the scenes.”

“It’s been interesting to have Jamie, an actor, the author and the director right here as we worked,” added Moran. “It’s a bit like having the ‘oracle’ with us,” he said laughing.

The comic plot gets off to a fine start as George and Helen Cranston, a typical 1950’s couple (except for his slight penchant for ‘playing the ponies’!) assume running the Heaven’s Door Funeral Home.

With a collection of bizarre employees inherited from the previous owner, and all their assets tied up in making the business work, the couple is definitely under pressure. When Senator Briggs hires them to give his mother a “proper send off”, (and proves to be very demanding), it’s literally a do or die situation for the Cranstons.

Then, in true farcical fashion, events and circumstances suddenly get out of hand. Bookies, shady characters, a whacky staff and alarming news from the doctor all conspire to “drive George nuts”, while driving the audience into the throes of laughter.

“Farce is a genre Jamie knows well,” said artistic director Donnie Bowes. “It’s truly exciting to have a brand new comic show like this here at the Playhouse.”

It’s Your Funeral was about two years in development for Williams.

An actor for over 26 years, he has performed in many well-written, polished farces. He employed that knowledge and experience to his writing as his play took shape.

“Upper Canada Playhouse is exactly the right place for my first play,” Williams said.

“Donnie Bowes was actually the first artistic director I approached to read my play. I hoped it would play here. It is really a privilege to have my show open in this theatre.”

Tickets for It’s Your Funeral, a new farce by actor/playwright/director Jamie Williams, are already going quickly.

The show runs from June 7 to June 30. Contact the box office at 613-543-3713.