"Self Help" the Savage Way with the Quebec Art Company

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Photo: courtesy of Normand Brassard

The cast of Self Help – Natalie Keller, Johanne Morin, Ladd Johnson, Patricia Grimaud, Stephen Desjardins and Doug Werden – receive a well-deserved round of applause from the appreciative audience.

The Savage Way – “Out with the doubt and stinkin’ thinkin’!”

These were just some of the words of wisdom offered by the dynamic self-help gurus Cindy and Hal Savage during last week’s hilarious presentation of Norm Foster’s Self Help by the Quebec Art Company.

Foster, Canada’s prolific and most-produced playwright, is indeed very funny. Add a dash of energetic community actors, a talented director and a dedicated crew, and what do you get? A very, very happy audience!

OK, so there’s a body in the study, a detective in the hall and a nosy muckraking journalist poking around. Really, what could possibly go wrong? Hmmm...
It all started seven years earlier when mediocre actors living in Flin Flon, Manitoba, are preparing to go on stage. Cindy and Hal Savage who are fed up with their nomadic lifestyle and all of their belongings fitting nicely into a couple of suitcases and an old car, make a bold decision to change their own future and become self-help gurus, a career not too distant from their own in theatre, as Cindy explains.

The persuasive charm of the Savages quickly attracts fame and fortune, the lifestyle of their dreams. But what happens when paradise creates a wedge between the once happy couple? The wedge in this story comes in the form of the Savages’ hired gardener. Cindy reacts to Andrew’s (the gardener) advances but he dies of a heart attack before anything can happen. Now, what to do with the body and how do they protect their reputations and their fortune?

Playwright Norm Foster sets the scene for a dark comedy, where audience members enjoy a belly full of laughs while at the same time are forced to examine the realities of human nature, including deception and greed. Patricia Grimaud and Ladd Johnson play off each other’s boundless energy in their lead roles as Cindy and Hal, keeping the audience rolling in laughter throughout the play.

Johanne Morin brings her character, Ruby Delvecchio, the Savage’s talent agent, to life with all the excentricities expected to fit the bill perfectly.
Stephen Desjardins’ brilliant choice of a simple, straightforward and honest portrayal of Detective Snow provides more hilarious moments than ever could have been achieved otherwise.

The little details that Doug Werden adds to muckraking journalist Jeremy Cash, are loved by the audience and demonstrate his commitment to the character.

Natalie Keller wows the audience in her role of Beatrice, the maid, transforming her character from a star-struck and naive fan into a strong and confident woman right before our very eyes.

Director Mark Lepitre’s choice of keeping the house lights up during the entire second scene is a simple yet creative way to connect the audience with the Savages. The audience also gets drawn into the show as Cindy and Hal give their inspirational self-improvement speech at the Videotron Centre.

The cast clearly developed their own respective characters as well as a group chemistry, which speaks highly of the director. The actors play off each other and master the comic timing of the script. It is often said that comedy is the most difficult genre of theatre but this talented cast and crew make it look easy.

Comments from the audience proved that this was one of the QAC’s best comedic presentations in recent years.

For information on upcoming performances or ways to become involved, contact the Quebec Art Company at www.qactheatre.weebly.com.