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Jeffrey Lefebvre as Geoffrey Novel. Photo by Allan Mackey.

Theatre review: Novel House at The Gladstone

By Barbara Popel on October 21, 2016

This new play by London Ontario playwright Jayson McDonald, directed by Dave Dawson, is billed as a comic drama. But there’s something lacking. Yes, there are a few comedic lines which elicit chuckles from some of the audience. Yes, there several dramatic moments. But Novel House fails to gel as a drama. As a famous Ottawa storyteller has said, “It takes more than a sequence of events to make a story.”

novel-house-5433-full-cast-photo-by-allan-mackey

The full cast of Jeffrey Lefebvre, Tony Adams, Whitney Richards, William Beddoe and Alexis Scott (L to R). Photo by Allan Mackey.

This is a pity, as there are real strengths evident on The Gladstone’s stage. Each of the five characters McDonald has penned is quite lovable. Even the several ghosts haunting the Novels’ house are lovable. The cast is uniformly excellent. First, we meet William Beddoe as James Novel, a former greeting card writer who is attempting to write the Great Canadian Novel… with a quill pen. There’s scant evidence that he has any talent in this arena, but he is a charming and welcoming paterfamilias. His ditzy wife Mary, played by Alexis Scott, is kindness personified. After 25 years, James and Mary are still deeply in love. Their daughter Rebecca (Whitney Richards) is a sweet young soul with a love-struck beau, Thomas Winding (Tony Adams) in her thrall. Then the piece-de-resistance – Grandpa Geoffrey Novel, a gentle old coot who communes with ghosts; he is masterfully sketched by Jeffrey Lefebvre. Lefebvre also has the best comedic schtick (watch when he goes to his cabinet meeting!).

Let’s hope we see Beddoe, Scott, Richards, Adams and especially Lefebvre cast in other plays soon.

L to R: Beddoe, Adams, Scott, Richards. Photo by Allan Mackey

L to R: Beddoe, Adams, Scott, Richards. Photo by Allan Mackey

We follow this lovely flakey family during more than a year of events, some happy, some sad. But they feel like episodic fragments, not a compelling story. The audience is continually reminded that we’re seeing short snippets of the Novel family’s lives. In part, this is due to the abbreviated scenes and intervening blackouts. Problems with lighting blocking and sound cues on opening night were additional distractions.

Let’s hope we see Beddoe, Scott, Richards, Adams and especially Lefebvre cast in other plays soon.

Novel House is at The Gladstone Theatre (910 Gladstone Ave) until October 29. The performance starts at 7:30pm and has one intermission. Information and tickets can be found at www.thegladstone.ca.

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