Story by Erin Lucuik

The Tarragon Theatre was a buzz with excitement on September 19th. As people milled about the lobby eagerly awaiting the first show of the 2012/2013 season, it was clear that it was going to be a full house. No Great Mischief went off without a hitch and there wasn’t an empty seat in the building.

Adapted from the acclaimed first novel by Alistair MacLeod, the play tells the story of two brothers from the MacDonald clan who journey back in time as they try to come to terms with their difficult past. Playwright David S. Young takes the audience on a dramatic journey that is punctuated by doses of humour and wit.

This performance may be cause for déjà vu, since the production of originally premiered at the Tarragon Theatre in 2004. Back for round two, several actors have reprised their original roles and a handful of new faces round out the cast.

The play starts with emotionally charged performances from Alexander and R.H. Thomson as younger brother and David Fox as older, alcoholic brother Calum. From a rooming house in Kensington market, we travel back to Cape Breton and learn about a family that has been fraught with loss and unexpected hardships.

We hear about many of these struggles in the first act of the play, which explains each disaster in great detail. While there’s plenty of dialogue, it’s still a struggle to piece together the plot before intermission arrives. The program notes explain that the play revolves around the history of the MacDonald clan, and it’s no joke.  After leaving the first act feeling a bit lost, I wonder if simply skimming the notes may not have been enough. As act two begins, the mood lightens and the audience is treated to a rousing musical sequence that makes use of the ingenious set design courtesy of Charlotte Dean.

While Thomson delivers the strongest performance of the play, Nicola Lipman adds much needed comedic relief as Grandma MacDonald. Other noteworthy performances include John Nolan as Grandpa, who is the source of many notable one-liners in the play.

Family ties run deep, and the play reminds us that no matter the circumstance it’s possible for a family to rally together in times of need. Heartwarming message aside, in the end the play sometimes struggles to gain momentum and fully engage the audience.

No Great Mischief runs until October 21st at Tarragon Theatre’s Mainspace, 30 Bridgman Avenue. Rush tickets are $13 and are available at the door for Friday nights (on sale at 6pm) and Sunday matinees (on sale at 1pm).  Regular ticket prices range from $21-$53 with discounts for students.

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