Susinn McFarlen, Dawn Petten

The Arts Club brings another production from playwright Mark Crawford, following last season’s Bed & Breakfast. In this two-act (with intermission) play, four characters explore love, loss — and a bag full of clichés.

Sure, the story of a just-separated 38-year-old turkey farmer who comes to stay with her mother, a beekeeper, may not resemble a typical scenario on stage, but rest assured, this play makes good on well-established story lines. You won’t come away disappointed. These four talented actors each bring a strength to The Birds & The Bees, and together with director Lauren Taylor, end the show with a standing ovation.

In the opening scene, we learn that Mother Gail (Susinn McFarlen) has given away both Sarah’s (Dawn Petten) and her sister’s beds and is using the former bedrooms for storage.

Tom McBeath, Christopher Allen, Susinn McFarlen
[Tom McBeath, Christopher Allen, Susinn McFarlen]

Neighbour Earl (Tom McBeath) is also a farmer who rents land from Gail. He’s a 60-something divorcé who, “tired of batshit-crazy women”, is only into no-strings-attached (NSA) flings.

On the flip side is 23-year-old biology student Ben (Christopher Allen), who’s researching Gail’s bees, trying to figure out why the population is dying out. He cycles in from the city and is a ball of energy, compared to the rest of the cast.

The stage is divided into two bedrooms: one well used by the mother, the other, a left-over, 80’s-themed pink and mint-green detailed room with N’Sync, Pink and Shania Twain posters.

Dawn Petten, Christopher Allen

It’s evident that Gail hasn’t forgotten about her daughters, leaving those memories in tact, perhaps for a grandchild, which she is hopeful for one day. The second daughter (who doesn’t appear on stage) is a lesbian, and now that Sarah has split from her husband, the chance of Gail becoming a grandmother is on the decline — or is it?!

Tom McBeath, Susinn McFarlen

I don’t want to spoil anything because there is a ton of spot-on comedic timing that unfolds during the evening and it’s all wonderfully executed! The show does end on a happy note as can be expected but not before the characters each go through an evolution of their own.

Dawn Petten, Christopher Allen
[Dawn Petten, Christopher Allen]

All four actors mentioned above are talents in their own right. Christopher Allen and Dawn Petten play well off one another, while Tom McBeath and Susinn McFarlen possess a fluid chemistry together. The production team hired intimacy coordinator Michelle Throne to elevate those bedroom scenes.

Set Designer Ted Roberts has created a detail-rich set that changes with the seasons (one window shows snow falling, the other, a Christmas tree; in spring, it’s a blossom-filled tree).

Tom McBeath, Susinn McFarlen

He gives Gail’s bedroom blue floral wallpaper, lavender sheets and antique bedside lamps, and Gail’s room an 80’s vibe, complete with high school-era ribbons (likely from farming), posters, stuffed animals, books, pretty much anything and everything you might leave behind when moving out of your parent’s home.

Lighting Designer Michael Hewitt gives the home just the right touch of atmosphere, from the glowing of the bedside lamps to the winter scenarios behind the set, while Sound Designer Sammie Hatch adds a layer of texture from the howling New Year’s Eve wind to music snippets between scenes.

Tom McBeath, Dawn Petten, Susinn McFarlen
[Tom McBeath, Dawn Petten, Susinn McFarlen]

This Canadian comedy is sure to relate to anyone who’s gone though life’s typical dramas, and is the perfect escape from autumn’s dreary, grey days.

The Birds & The Bees is a lighthearted, delightful show. Catch it at the Granville Island Stage through October 26.  

Photos by Moonrider Productions.

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