By Mark Crawford. Directed by Ashlie Corcoran. An Arts Club Theatre Company production, in partnership with the Great Canadian Theatre Company. At the Granville Island Stage on Saturday, April 13. Continues until May 4
Bed & Breakfast is a play about that unifying obsession of Canadian urbanites: real estate. Brett (Mark Crawford), an interior designer, and Drew (Paul Dunn), a hotel front-desk clerk, live together in a Toronto condo. They're aspiring house buyers, but they've been outbid seven times.
Their detached dreams take a turn for the better when Brett's aunt dies, leaving him a sprawling Victorian house in cottage country. While at first the couple consider selling to be able to afford a Toronto home, they fall for the local community and open a bed-and-breakfast instead.
Early scenes are heavy on exposition and light on conflict, so the play takes a while to warm up. It finds its feet in the second act when our fledgling hoteliers must stickhandle their opening-weekend guests, including horny honeymooners, a prohibitionist, and a bi-curious Englishman.
The two actors perform theatrical gymnastics as they play a whole town's worth of characters, from Dustin, a shy teenager, to an octogenarian neighbour. They use gestures and poses to effectively signal their switching between roles.
As you'd expect, some characters, like the hilariously equivocating Dustin, are better realized than others. Aside from the two central roles, most of the other characters are exaggerated stereotypes. Given the show's lightheartedness, this is less of a problem than you'd imagine.
The production's overwhelming aesthetic is grey. Brett and Drew's wardrobe is largely monochrome and the entire set, which represents multiple locations, is the colour of fireplace ash. The overall effect was much more airport Marriott than homey bed-and-breakfast.
The actors mime almost all of the props, completing the effect of a blank slate. I expected the set to be gussied up to reflect the B&B's renovation into a "chic and modern country getaway", but it remained grey. This seemed a puzzling choice. If we were meant to use our imagination to bring the B&B to life, we needed more colour in the script.
Right from the start, these self-styled "gay pioneers" worry about small-mindedness in this small town. From sly digs to outright hatred, Brett and Drew are indeed faced with homophobia. They weather these storms admirably, even if the storytelling sometimes slips into after-school special.
With its bare-bones set and zany antics, Bed & Breakfast presents a bit like an upgraded Fringe production. But Crawford and Dunn are seasoned professionals and inject the show with gentle charm.