What a gorgeous little theatre there in Hunter River. Inside the doors, all rugged wood and old brick and little monogrammed notes, you’d swear a hobbit is about to step out from around the corner.
This welcoming space is the passion project of Kris and Melanie Taylor. Since its opening, the community, both cultural and in the valleyed village, has been fully supportive.
This year, two popular gentleman have been commandeered once again to hold up the Harmony House sign. After a successful 2013 season, Patrick Ledwell and Mark Haines are mounting The Island Summer Review 2. Through scads of skits, banter and verse, the be-striped duo shares personal tales and Island centric observations.
Devout Led-heads will recognize some morsels of his material from past productions, but there’s plenty of new, too. And much of the tried and true stuff has been re-tooled, either through song or with a little finessing of words.
Hainamaniacs are treated to a diverse selection from his extensive catalogue. Heartwarming folk and traditional sounds wrap a brotherly arm around the audience. And an unexpected number shows a seedier side, as if someone gave Tom Waits half a lozenge. With a squint and slouch, Haines draws you into an underground world of intrigue.
Though Ledwell is a connoisseur of words, he never dips into prose too purple. It’s all quite efficient, really. He squeezes so many jokes into his eloquence, you’d be well served to take notes, just so you can remember to laugh later at that little throw away statement that he’d slipped by.
Wayne Gretzky said you miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take. He was not a statistics major, clearly, but we get the sentiment. After years honing his craft, Ledwell dunks every shot into the back of the net. Home run! Now, whether the tight curl will take off like the Gretzky golden flow amongst the younger generation, we’ll have to wait and see.
I swear Haines could make music from wet laundry. Here, though, he cycles through instruments that are a little more familiar. The man knows a hook and, in particular, he just glows on the fiddle. At times, Ledwell accompanies with a winking downstroke modesty.
The supporting visuals are a lesson in photoshop, and subtle slide triggering. It’s a tidy production, but there’s still a casual, homey feel. Of the many bits that had the audience roaring, we explored the intricacies of the EI system, Stratford’s branding campaign, Island road rules, and we celebrated our waste watch system. Apparently it’s been 20 years since we began putting googly eyes on the garbage bins.
No big surprise, these likable chaps have been asked to stay for extra shows on Sept. 4 and 5. But don’t be lulled into too much hammock time just yet. The summer is fleeting.
Lennie MacPherson, a Charlottetown-based writer, actor and musician, writes theatre reviews for The Guardian during the summer months. He welcomes feedback at email@example.com.