The Wild Guys are Pretty Tame

The Wild Guys
Written by Andrew Wreggitt and Rebecca Shaw
Directed by Susan Ferley
Performed by Eric Coats, Aidan deSalaiz, David Snelgrove, Williams Vickers.
Grand Theatre Production
Grand Theatre, London
January 20 to February 7, 2009

Live! On Stage!
By Mary Alderson

The Wild Guys, currently on stage at London’s Grand Theatre, starts with great promise. Four men line up across the stage, each talking on a telephone, explaining that he is going on camping trip. Each gives his own idea of what he thinks the weekend will entail, and right away we can imagine the hilarious problems that will result from the various misconceptions.
But while the exposition seems to hold promise, the play doesn’t quite take full advantage of it. There is potential for greater humour, but the plot becomes predictable.
Grocery store chain executive Andy (William Vickers) invites three other men for a camping weekend. Each agrees for his own reasons. Stewart (Eric Coates), who manages a small town grocery store, thinks that Andy is about to offer him a promotion. He has visions of moving up to a better store in a big city like Meaford or Penetang. And to him, a camping weekend means beer and fishing.
Randal (David Snelgrove) is Andy’s corporate lawyer. He comes to keep his client happy, and also to have a break from his much younger girl friend. Robin (Aidan deSalaiz) is a new acquaintance of Andy’s – apparently they met at some kind of men’s sensitivity group. Robin is looking forward to sharing poetry and deep breathing exercises.
Vickers as Andy is reminiscent of Wilson, the guy who was always peeking over the fence in the old Home Improvements TV series. He has read all the pop-psychology books and has an analysis of everyone else’s problems. Predictably, the audience learns later that he has more personal problems than the others.
This is a very talented cast, with plenty of solid experience. Vickers was last on the Grand stage as Belle’s father in Beauty and the Beast and he has 21 years at the Shaw Festival. Coates is well known as the Artistic Director of the Blyth Festival. Snelgrove has been in over 20 productions at the Stratford Festival and, along with Vickers, appeared in a delightful production of The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon at the Grand. DeSalaiz is an alumnus of the High School Project, having been in three, along with other shows at the Grand. With such a strong cast, one would expect more of this production. A tighter script with fresh humour would have allowed this cast to live up to their potential.
The Wild Guys is much like Norm Foster’s golf comedy, The Foursome. Both are stories of male bonding. But Foster packs his script with surprising plot twists and loud laughs. The Wild Guys’ writers are a husband and wife team – Andrew Wreggitt and Rebecca Shaw. Both have impressive resumes, with many notable works to their credit. Wreggitt has written several excellent, well-known made-for-TV movies, such as Mayerthorpe and One Dead Indian. It appears that drama is their strength.
The set for The Wild Guys is well done. Different rock formations sit at centre stage, and revolve as the characters climb on them, making the audience believe that the lost men are walking in circles.
So, while a good cast has been assembled, the script doesn’t come through for them. The Wild Guys offers a few chuckles, but lacks the big “laugh out loud” surprises we’ve come to expect from Canadian comedies.
The Wild Guys continues at the Grand Theatre in London until February 7. Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593.

Mary Alderson offers her view of area theatre in this column on a regular basis. As well as being a fan of live theatre, she is a former journalist who is currently employed with the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations.