Wanda’s Visit comes to Lunchbox Theatre, won’t overstay welcome

Is there a better way to shake up a dull marriage than to have the husband’s bombastic high school fling come and visit for an indeterminate amount of time, all the while openly flirting with that very same husband? Yes — there are probably hundreds or thousands of ways. But it’s definitely a recipe for funny as Lunchbox Theatre’s new one-act play, Wanda’s Visit, will demonstrate when it opens Mar. 7.

“It’s about a relationship — a couple who have been married for 13 years and an old high school flame of his comes for an unexpected visit, hence Wanda’s Visit,” says director Bob White. “It’s about the implications and the reverberations of having the old flame around, how it impacts this couple whose relationship is a bit on the rocks.”

The play, written by Christopher Durang, is most certainly a comedy despite the somewhat serious subject matter. White and the cast — Dave Kelly, Kerry Ann Doherty, Karen Johnson-Diamond and Ian McFarlane — are currently figuring out the balance.

“One of the tricks with comedy is that you have to take the situation seriously,” White says. “Comedy is really, really hard. If you consciously involve yourself in doing comedy, you can almost guarantee that’s it not going to work. We’re trying to find the reality in this situation. It’s right there in the text that it’s a relationship in trouble. We’re focusing on that to a certain degree, so the comic elements have a place to base themselves.”

With over 40 years of theatre experience, White is more than qualified to direct, though it’s a change of pace. White was Alberta Theatre Project’s artistic director for ten years and before that he spearheaded the organization’s playRites festival.

“I have a lot more fun in the rehearsal halls,” says White. “I’m not worrying about budgets and audiences and corporate relations and all of that other stuff that crowds your mind when you’re an artistic director. I’m finding it on one level a lot more freeing and a lot more fun. When the day is over you can go home and have dinner, instead of going back to your desk and wading through 8,000 e-mail messages.”

White was also appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 2009 for his work in Canadian theatre and more specifically for his contributions to Alberta’s arts and culture.

“It’s quite cool — there are times over the last 40 years where I’ve thought, ‘Why the hell am I doing this shit for no money and all the grief you get for it and all of that sort of stuff?’ ” he laughs. “Obviously always enjoying the work, but what does it really add up to at the end of the day? But to get that kind of recognition is very nice, you kind of go, ‘Oh, maybe I haven’t wasted my time.’ And my mother, up in heaven or wherever she is can go, ‘You haven’t wasted your life, you’re okay.’ “

It’s uncertain whether there will be any real relationship advice to gain from Wanda’s Visit, but there will certainly be some funny with the veteran White at the helm.

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