Sunday, July 19, 2009

Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Les Miserable Old Guys

On the surface, the only thing elderly neighbours Charlie and Eddie have in common is a backyard fence.

Something of a rake in his younger years, Charlie is a gentle soul who stops to smell the roses. Eddie is a grouch with a garbage problem.

But don’t worry, this comedy from Toronto playwright-actor Rex Deverell is not another odd couple. Charlie (Deverell) and Eddie’s (Winnipeg stage veteran Harry Nelken) relationship is based only on proximity, a missing shovel and buried resentments that surface during a chance over-the-fence conversation.

A long-held secret is exposed amid the comic-poignant bluster that follows. Nelken gets the lion’s share of the laughs as Eddie rails against local gossips, recalls the happiest moment of his miserable life and continually gripes about those darn dogs and his purloined shovel.

But Deverell gets the last, best laugh with a silent punchline. The expression on Charlie’s face in the final moment of the play is a sublime revelation.

— Pat St. Germain

Les Miserable Old Guys

Last Updated: 18th July 2009, 5:26pm
You'd better be sure to plan carefully to see this gem.
There was a full house of very appreciative patrons on just the second afternoon of the Fringe. Only one of these old guys is miserable; and, man, Ed has curmudgeon down to an art form! His more mellow neighbour, Charlie, tells him that Ed's late wife Alma thought him "the unhappiest man in the world!"
Charlie finds magical moments in the mundane while Ed lives "a life of pure irritation and annoyance." This contrast of temperaments between two men who have lived next door to each other almost their whole lives is absolutely hilarious! It is not a comedy throughout, as a secret emerges that causes the two old men to expose their hearts to each other in a deeply touching way. Plus a surprise ending! Superb theatre.
Lisa Campbell
The Jenny Review)

4.5 stars from 107.1 FM.

Les Miserable Old Guys (Venue 2) by Rex Deverell

Brilliant! Admittedly I had incredibly high expectations and was concerned that because of this it would end up being like Spiderman 3.... dead to me. But Rex Deverell and Harry Nelken took the entire room (which was ironically packed with seniors) from gut-wrenching laughter to somber silent reflection and back again. It was played to perfection, and the one word review is worth repeating twice.. brilliant!

Possible objectional words/phrases: 4

Who should see this show?

If you like the movie Grumpy Old Men, you'll love Les Miserable Old Guys.

Les Miserable Old Guys

Venue 2, MTC Up the Alley

They may be miserable, but not for long.

Charlie (Rex Deverell) and Eddie (Harry Nelken) are two lonely, aging seniors who seem to share just about everything — from shovels and coffee to Eddie’s deceased wife Elma. Separated by an incredibly short fence, eternal optimist Charlie is the only one to provide comfort and companionship to pessimist Eddie as he tries to come to terms with Elma’s death.

This wonderfully written play by Deverell explores the depth of human relationships. Directed by Stefanie Wiens, Deverell and Nelken give flawless performances that make you think about how you’re going to be at that age. But don’t worry — Les Miserable Old Guys also provides more than enough laughs to keep you from being miserable.

And who knows? Maybe you’ll even shorten your fence to talk to your neighbour afterward.

The Winnipeg Sun Rating: 4 out of 5

CBC Review:

Meet Eddie and Charlie: a latter day odd couple doing a little yard work in their respective gardens.

Eddie hates music, the neighbourhood dogs, and – one suspects – kittens and rainbows. He’s mercurial, stubborn and delights in the misfortunes of others.

Charlie, on the other hand, is a man with music in his soul. An utter romantic, he stops and listens to the birds, whereas Eddie can only fixate on the rotting pile of compost and his missing shovel.

Wisely, Charlie points out that on this particular day Eddie’s problem isn’t an AWOL garden implement, but Alma.

A fence, it soon turns out, isn’t the only thing separating these men. Each had a special relationship to Eddie’s late wife. Eddie took Alma for granted while Charlie, a bachelor, loved her from afar. Eddie eventually accuses Charlie of having an affair with Alma.

As the two attempt the negotiate this rough patch of jealousy and suspicion it becomes clear that they are bound together in grief: a couple of "frenemies" whose interactions run the gamut from tender and thoughtful to caustic, cantankerous and laugh-out-loud funny.

Rex Deverell’s script is clever and nuanced with a Corner Gas kind of folksiness. The actors deliver solid performances donning these characters like a pair of comfortable well-worn shoes.

Despite this strong command of the craft, the show still feels a little longish… probably because it is more fun to play a miserable old guy than to watch one for 45 minutes.

3 Stars

Reviewed by: Katie Nicholson

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