Ned Plate is the quintessential small town, blue-collar dude: instantly recognizable. Living in Edmonton, even for a short while, means you’ve definitely run into this guy before.
Lucy and Mr Plate is a new work by Jeff Haslam, Stewart Lemoine and Jana O’Connor, a sequel to the 2001 Fringe hit Citizen Plate and part of Teatro La Quindicina’s current season. From his first few lines, Ned (Haslam) quickly endears himself to the audience—even whilst clad in a bright orange clown suit.
After that quirky opening monologue we move to a beach in Hawaii, brought to life by a large projection stretching across the entire back of the stage. Ned’s on vacation when he has a chance encounter with Lucy Dedechko (O’Connor), another small-town kid (he’s from Vegreville, she’s from Mundare) and someone he vaguely knew from school. It’s the start of a friendship that’s not totally unlikely but also not exactly expected; certainly it’s one that provides plenty of laughs as we watch them navigate the waters from clumsy small talk to genuine heart-to-hearts.
Haslam plays Ned perfectly, employing earnest goofiness for some great shticks. O’Connor plays a Lucy that’s insecure and benignly narcissistic as she stumbles from one poor life decision to another—but I suspect most of us can relate to her uncertainty and failed relationships. The script peppers clever quips (which are often, hilariously, over both of the characters’ heads) with expertly captured dialogue, and is also simply quite funny, with comedy that’s backed by real warmth.
It’s not completely without bumps: the helicopter scene in the first act sticks out as a little disjointed and unclear, while parts of the second can feel a bit tedious. The latter is mainly a factor of the subject itself; you can’t help but wince as Lucy flings herself into one romantic mishap after another. Luckily we’ve got Ned to bolster the awkwardness with some funny pantomiming of her former lovers, and then reassure us with his own brand of homespun wisdom—too sincere to feel patronizing.
The story is eminently refreshing for not following up on the typical romantic-comedy tropes that it suggests at the outset: the “will-they-or-won’t-they” dilemma isn’t completely irrelevant, but it’s simply not the focus. Instead, Lucy and Mr Plate is a celebration of the friends who help us along our path, and a snapshot of the life of everyday folks.
Until Sat, Jun 28 (7:30 pm; 2 pm Saturday matinee)
Directed by Stewart Lemoine
Varscona Theatre, $16 – $30