Berlin, 1986. Wall: still up. Cold War: still on.
The perfect setting, it seems, for a good ol’ fashioned door-slamming farce. A spy farce, of course, in keeping with the era and the fact that our hero is an Englishman in the German capital.
Look, No Hans! opened this week at the Drayton Festival Theatre.
Peter Fisher, manager of the West Berlin office of a British car company, is as good at the spy game as he is at selling British cars of the era to Germans. That’s not saying much, but also says a lot.
Our boy does have his charms, however, as we soon discover. A colourful character who likes to drink whiskey and fraternize with the ladies, he’s at the centre of all the ensuing chaos. We did mention it’s a farce, right?
“He’s not very good at selling cars,” says director Wade Lynch of his ersatz spy. “He says that selling English cars in Germany is like selling pork chops at a bar mitzvah.”
As we find out, Fisher is equally ill-equipped for his double life as a secret agent for the British Security of Industry.
The play gets going with his wife Monica due to fly home to England for a short break, Fisher is planning to spend his birthday quietly, but when Monica’s plane is delayed she returns home, followed in rapid succession by Heidi, Fisher’s mistress, Mitzi, a voluptuous singing telegram girl, Cadwallader from British Security of Industry who is awaiting the arrival of Hans, a top industrial spy from the East, and Tregunter Jones, a rather butch representative from Midland Motors.
Fisher, it’s clear, is a rascal, but a likeable one – “if you don’t like Fisher, then the comedy falls apart. He’s so funny and so lovable, so you care about him.”
Look, No Hans! is a ball of confusion, in the spirit of the genre.
Lynch quickly sets the scene – it’s 1986, remember, so think big shoulder pads and even bigger hair. Cold War sensibilities are quickly revisited, along with topical-at-the-time jabs. Don’t worry if you don’t get, say, a quip about British cars of the era: if you don’t get the reference, there’ll be another quip coming along in a second … followed by dozens more.
With the farce, the door-slamming is almost as furious as the patter.
“It’s always about the speed of the jokes. There’s so much physical comedy, it’s in the league of Dick Van Dyke pratfalls,” says Lynch of the frenetic pace.
“We do keep it moving.”
Having directed and acted in plenty of farces, he knows what of he speaks. Nor is he a stranger to Drayton Entertainment, having been part of past productions such as Suds, Man Of La Mancha and Shear Madness, among others.
The play, which wraps up a run in Grand Bend before moving to Drayton on July 2, features a cast of classically trained actors who arrived with their characters already well rounded, meaning the critical comedic timing came quickly.
“It took them about 30 seconds to get in the groove,” he laughs.
Kevin Kruchkywich is Peter Fisher, the cheerful yet unqualified undercover agent. Kruchkywich is new to Drayton Entertainment but has performed with theatre companies across the globe (England, Germany and Africa), perhaps lending to his role as an ‘international man of mystery.’
Also making their Drayton Entertainment debuts in this production are Kaitlyn Riordan as Peter’s snooty but naïve wife, Monica, and Steffi DiDomenicantonio, who takes on the role of Mitzi, Peter’s mistress.
Caitlin Stewart is Heidi, the singing telegram girl, and Jacob James is Cadwallader of the British Security of Industry. Veteran Drayton Entertainment performer Susan Johnston Collins is Tregunter-Jones.
Look, No Hans! runs July 2-19 at the Drayton Festival Theatre. Tickets are $42 ($25 for youth under 20) and can be purchased online at www.draytonfestivaltheatre.com, in person at the Drayton Festival Theatre box office, or by calling (519) 638-5555 or toll free 1-855-DRAYTON (372-9866).