Any audience will feel at home at The Last Resort

Genre-bender is a murder-mystery, musical and comedy all in one show
The Last Resort
Huron Country Playhouse
June 26 to July 14
Box office: (519) 238-6000

Story and photo by Casey Lessard

The Last Resort director Marc RichardMost people would be happy to see a play that is a murder mystery, a musical or a comedy; those are standard theatrical genres. Canadian playwright Norm Foster and composer Leslie Arden decided to combine the three and the result is The Last Resort, now showing at the Huron Country Playhouse.
The Last Resort is set in a resort in Saskatchewan,” director Marc Richard says, “and the idea is that these characters come to the Last Resort: there are two people there for their 25th anniversary, there’s a man who’s on the run from the mob and he’s in the witness protection program, along with the FBI agent who’s with him. There’s a poet coming to find some sanctuary to write. There are twins – one actor plays two characters – twin girls who are there for the reading of their father’s will; one of them is going to inherit $32 million. There’s the woman who is the proprietress of the Last Resort, named Freda Heights – the big joke of the show. She’s looking after everybody.
“At the end of the first act, somebody is murdered and the whole second act is trying to find out who did it. There’s an RCMP officer named Kenneth Closely, who shows up from the RCMP complete with a kilt and a Scottish accent. He tries to figure out who killed the person who died at the end of act one.”
This is Richard’s fourth production of the play, and he says it gets better every time.
“It’s been a work in progress for me,” he says. “From the very first time I read it, I knew that all those elements had to be there. Usually what I do is go through a scene and look at it just for comic timing, the technical timing of it. ‘You’re saying this because, right now you’re culpable and everybody thinks you did it.’ There’s the murder mystery aspect – turning the volume up on that. And obviously the music is all part of it, too. The music is difficult – it’s really beautiful music, jazzy and a bit hard.”
It’s a fast schedule – the cast has two weeks to rehearse for the play.
“The first time I did this play, the actors barely knew what was going on. So it’s great to have people who have done it with you before because we go, yeah, right. We’re just reminded. All the layers are there and you add layers as they start playing. It’s great to have people who are ready to hit the ground running in a two-week rehearsal process, because you don’t have a lot of time. Especially just to learn the material, let alone to add other stuff to it.
“The actors love it. It’s always fun doing a comedy. It’s always fun to try to find the rhythms and what it takes to make the thing really come to life. We’ve had a lot of fun in rehearsals. Six of them in this cast have done it with me before – in Penetanguishene and Drayton two summers ago – and we have two new cast members. They’re walking around with their eyes a bit bugged out right now but they’re fitting in really well. They’ve had a lot to learn but they’re great.”
Richard likes having a chance to make the play better for a new audience.
“We can add so many layers to it,” he says. “In the two weeks we’ve been rehearsing, we’ve been going back and adding new elements to it, digging deeper. It’s a really fun show. It’s lovely to work on a piece where you know you’re just there to make people laugh. People are also going to be interested in the story and the plot. But just sitting there listening to people laugh is a wonderful way to make a living.”
And the atmosphere in Grand Bend’s not bad, either.
“Maybe Grand Bend’s a little more distracting for people in the summertime. People are like, I want to get to the beach. Yes, but we still have to rehearse. But it’s a great place, a great space to work in, a lovely theatre and it is a bit like a vacation when you work here.”