Harvest performed at the 1000 Islands Playhouse in Gananoque, Ontario
A play that is inspired by a real-life experience of his parents, Ken Cameron’s comedy Harvest successfully transmits an equal amount of seriousness and humor as directed by Charlotte Gowdy in the Firehall Theatre. Performed by an extremely versatile pair, Sheldon Davis and Catherine Fitch, Harvest tells the story of a retired couple who decide to rent out their farmhouse when they move to the city. A WestJet pilot named Ron is all too eager to move in immediately.
The couple gradually discover, with a shock, the reason for his rush; he uses the house as a grow-op to satisfy a demand from another dealer. Yet the lessons in this play do not ultimately come from the scandal of the couple’s house being used as a grow-op so much as how they manage together through the ordeal (as well as the wise tidbits about contemporary life expressed by different characters which ring true for the realities of small-town Canada).
As a two-hander (two actors in a play), Harvest is impressive from a performance standpoint. Davis and Fitch not only excel at giving well-realized portrayals of the couple, Allan and Charlotte, but also at portraying the many other characters present in the story. The actors are able to switch seamlessly between characters, easily adopting different voices and manners. Especially good impressions include the grumpy Hungarian neighbor Istvan and suspicious Ron by both actors at turns and the nerdy insurer Nesbitt by Fitch. The actors also make good, extensive use of the Firehall’s playing area, spreading themselves out beyond the immediate set so as to be more visible to the audience and moving behind and out of the four walls surrounding the theatre for effective entrances and exits. Indeed, the smaller space of the Firehall suits this production very well, as it adds to the immediacy of the story as it unfolds before the audience.
The thematic strength of the play lies in its ability to balance serious subject matter alongside its jokes and jibes at contemporary life and even the situation of the characters themselves. Although the subject matter is treated light-heartedly for the most part, there are moments of serious drama at certain points in Harvest; the suspenseful atmosphere while Allan and Charlotte’s investigation of their evidently trashed house is a prime example, as one genuinely fears for what they may find. Moments when the characters voice opinions on the modern state of things also provide the play with a reflective lens. Allan’s musing on how easy it is to become distracted by one’s thoughts when driving, as well as Nesbitt’s lament of the buying up of small-town businesses by bigger corporations for instance, are sentiments which many viewers can certainly relate to.
The technical elements of the show each do well to complement its staging. Brandon Kleiman’s ingenious set, featuring a series of stacked boxes painted with the sky and clouds that easily double as props demonstrates this production’s efficiency. The grass-colored floor is also a nice feature which further helps to bring the farm setting to life. Lighting by Kaileigh Krysztofiak is always thematically appropriate, as is Anna Atkinson’s sound design (the carefree banjo music during transitions and very realistic dog barking sound being highlights in this regard).
Harvest continues at the Firehall Theatre in the 1000 Islands Playhouse until July 29. For information and tickets, see http://www.1000islandsplayhouse.com/harvest/
This article originally appeared in Capital Critics’ Circle on July 12, 2018, and has been reposted with permission.