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Prairie Nurse – Review of Factory Theatre production

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By James Karas

Factory Theatre wraps up its
2017/18 season with Prairie Nurse
by Marie Beath Badian, a reasonably
entertaining sitcom/farce that has a
pleasant romantic story told by stock
comedy characters. The three doors
for well-timed entrances and quick exits
are there as are the complications of
misunderstanding, the letter getting in
the wrong hands and the like. This is a
coproduction by Factory Theatre and
Thousand Islands Playhouse and that’s
a clue about the eminent suitability of
the play for summer stock.
The play is set Arborfield in the
boonies of Saskatchewan, the town that
is a three-hour drive from Saskatoon.
Going to Saskatoon for the people of
Arborfield is the equivalent of going to
Paris or New York.
There is great excitement in the local
hospital because two nurses are arriving
from the Philippines. We meet the
exaggerated, goofy, loveable characters
who can walk onto the set of a 1960’s
sitcom and fit right in. Corner Gas, a
sitcom based in the Prairies comes to
mind and Prairie nurse is in the same
league of comedy.
The two nurses, Penny (Isabel
Kanaan) and Puring (Belinda Corpuz)
are attractive and come from different
ends of the Filipino social ladder. Penny
is a standoffish snob with pretensions to
social standing whereas Puring comes
from a working class background. The
really positive aspect of the play is that
it shows Filipino professionals rather
than the usual, anecdotally or in reality,
importation of nannies.
Marie (Catherine Fitch), the hospital
nurse and “boss” tries to run the unit
which has as many mishaps as Toronto
has potholes in the spring. She has
to deal with the Candy Striper Patsy
(Janelle Hanna), an over-excited
teenage volunteer who tries to be a
matchmaker with (un)expected results.
The lab technician Wilf (Matt Shaw
tests men’s samples for pregnancy,
women’s samples for cholesterol instead
of pregnancy, drops a tray of samples
on the floor, is accused of having
relations with the Filipino nurse and
Patsy while engaged to another woman
and is slapped around by Charlie the
maintenance man (Layne Coleman). Is
that enough?
Dr. Miles (Mark Crawford) loves
hunting, fishing and bear trapping with
a passion and looks and acts like a goof
in classic sitcom fashion where getting a
laugh is the only thing that counts.
Charlie the maintenance man (Layne
Coleman) is the sole of decency and
upholder of local morality. He does
smack around Wilf who is engaged
when he romances another woman.
Heavens!
The play is inspired by the author’s
mother’s immigration story but is
obviously fictional. Love at first sight
(Wilf and Puring), farcical complications
with a happy ending. We are treated to
the usual yahoo comments. The locals
can’t tell the two nurses apart and
cannot remember their names but all
of the characters are essentially decent
and the mayhem caused by bobbling
and misunderstandings are the classic
fodder of comedy.
Director Sue Miner did not skimp on
any of the comic business of a sitcom
or farce and she produced a good deal
of laughter. The cast does its best with
the material and leaves us reasonably
entertained.
Prairie Nurse by Marie Beath Badian
in a Factory Theatre and Thousand
Islands Playhouse coproduction opened
on April 26 and will run until May 13,
2018 at the Factory Theatre, 125
Bathurst Street, Toronto, Ontario. www.
factorytheatre.ca/