When Nick Whelan was looking for a play for his directorial debut, he didn’t have to look far for inspiration.
He thought back to a script that singer/actor John Connolly had given him in the summer of 2005 when the two were performing in Anne & Gilbert – The Musical at the Victoria Playhouse.
Written by the late David French, a P.E.I. summer resident, Salt Water Moon had everything he was looking for — strong characters, a dramatic plot and a riveting love story.
“I fell in love with the script right away and always wanted to do the play . . . . It’s a favourite of mine,” says Whelan of the play that hits the boards of the Kings Playhouse in Georgetown, Feb. 13-15, 8 p.m., with Lori Linkletter as assistant director.
Set in the summer of 1926 in Coley’s Point, N.L., it’s the story of 18-year-old Jacob Mercer who has returned from Toronto to his tiny hometown, hoping to win back Mary Snow, his former sweetheart.
But, Mary has other ideas. Now engaged to wealthy Jerome McKenzie, she is still hurt by Jacob’s abrupt departure a year before.
Although the beautiful salt-water moon works its magic on the lovers, Mary is not easily wooed.
Whelan is not the only one who has fallen under the play’s spell.
So has Ian Byrne, who plays Jacob.
“I’m thrilled to get a chance to play such a complex character. Jacob has a chip on his shoulder. He
grew up in poverty. His father fought in the First World War and is a poor fisherman. So when Jacob goes to Toronto he tries to make his way in the world. Because he has endured a lot, it gives him a forceful, aggressive side. But the things he has overcome have given him a lot of confidence,” says Byrne.
Emily-Anne Fullerton is also thrilled with her character.
“I love playing Mary Snow because she’s passionate, full of energy and confrontational. She’s a spitfire. She’s a pistol. And it’s fun to play a character who doesn’t take any BS. She stands up for what she believes in. It makes me really feel alive to be able to step into the shoes of somebody who doesn’t back down and is very confrontational,” says Fullerton, who also enjoys being directed by Whelan.
“He’s extremely honest and speaks to you in a way that’s real. He’ll ask, ‘what would you feel like if you were faced with this situation?’ “ she says.
Whelan’s honesty comes from his years of acting and researching the play. After his introduction, Whelan saw the Charlottetown Festival production, directed by French in 2007. Afterward, when he sat with the actors and listened to the playwright’s talk, he was further inspired.
“Saltwater Moon has so many layers and we’re going to explore them . . . . It’s about having someone you haven’t seen for a long time come back into your life. It’s also a love story, something everyone can relate to,” he says.
AT A GLANCE
Nick Whelan directorial debut
Thoughts on directing: “It’s exciting. All the experience that I’ve had as an actor is helping me.”
Work experience: After working at Walt Disney World in Orlando for a year, Whelan is thrilled to be working at the Kings Playhouse, which he calls “such a gem of a theatre.”
Favourite past credits: You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, Chicago, Twenty Somethings, The Big Red Radio Show and A Chorus Line.
Education: Music theatre performance at St. Lawrence College.
Jacob Mercer (Ian Byrne) and Mary Snow (Emily-Anne Fullerton) appear in the picnic scene from Salt Water Moon. The show runs Feb. 13-15 at the Kings Playhouse in Georgetown at 8 p.m. Tickets are available from the box office (652 2053 or www.kingsplayhouse.com.
©GUARDIAN PHOTO BY SALLY COLE