Baco Noir: Dan Needles’ latest treat has Spirit

April 29, 2015   ·   0 Comments

“It’s been a great process,” said actor Craig Pike, who plays the role of Bruce in the upcoming production of Baco Noir, opening at Theatre Orangeville next Thursday, May 7.

As he explained, “to workshop a new play and then come back to rehearse and perform in it. I’ve never done that before.”

Baco Noir is written by Dan Needles, the Dufferin native playwright famed for his multiple Wingfield plays. However, this is emphatically not another issue of that fine collection. Baco Noir is performed by four actors (with just one role each, for a change) and is a comedy-drama.

It is, having said which, still very much a Needles play about a couple who give up their city life to come to this region with plans of fulfilling a wild country-based dream. This time, the retreat to rural Ontario is prompted by the desire of a young couple, Bruce and Lindy, who want to own and run a vineyard and winery.

There is, luckily for them, a knowledgeable neighbour, Oscar, who likes and “adopts” them when things, inevitably, go wrong and the unexpected invades their crop, spoiling its product. Unfortunately, Oscar’s solutions are those of a lifelong farmer, a practical, unsentimental sort of a chap whose ideas of rescue run afoul of the idealistic Lindy.

Add to this sort-of regular crowd, a Spirit, coming from nature, coming from the earth, the plants and the very rocks themselves, who arrives with other solutions that might, combined, result in an effective compromise. The Spirit calls himself Al, taking on the corporal appearance of the pilot neighbour from up the road, whom no one ever sees otherwise. While he might be helpful to them, he has something he also needs from them…

Welcome back to the Theatre Orangeville stage to Perrie Olthuis, performing the role of Lindy. Ms. Olthuis joined us here to play in the Melville Boys and Team on the Hill, the last previous new play by Dan Needles. As Lindy, she is all about organic solutions, and she and Bruce were determined to follow that star with their vineyard. Also, it deals with the result of angst and difficulties in a new venture that can tear at a marriage relationship.

Said Ms. Olthuis, “It’s about respecting each other’s ideas. Both can be right. As soon as you’re dealing with elements of nature, communicating with the land – there are the unexpected problems.”

She added, “In the end, the play is very much about sustainable agriculture, to farm responsibly.”

Asked about his unusual role of a Spirit, Jay Davis, coming to Theatre Orangeville and a Dan Needles play, both for the first time, advises, “This is no mere ghost; this is a Spirit of the neighbourhood who has been around for thousands of years. He’s the ‘essence’ of the earth – whose time here is nearly done.”

Asked what he has learned from playing such a role, Mr. Davis replied sagaciously: “You need to become mentally healthy in order to live life properly.”

Playing the part of Oscar, Terry Barna returns after a long absence to Theatre Orangeville, having performed with David Nairn in Outlaw. Explaining his character this time around, Mr. Barna said Oscar “has been growing fruit and vegetables for sale all his life. He helps with the problem solving for the young couple – with the old methods.”

Variously, with director David Nairn, they summed up the beauty of Baco Noir: “It’s very funny,” Mr. Nairn assured us. “This lovely couple wanting to have a vineyard, with all the challenges that presents.”

“It’s so lively,” Ms. Olthuis remarked. “Every moment, we’re finding so much life in the lines.”

They generally observed, “Dan [Needles] really stands on exactly what this community is.”

Like all Dan Needles plays, this one has humour, wit and charm.

Said Mr. Nairn: “When Dan was awarded the Order of Canada [earlier this year] he said it was a vindication for humour with charm – the quintessential Canadian humour.”

Baco Noir opens at Theatre Orangeville next Thursday, May 7 and runs until Sunday, May 24.

Tickets as usual at the box office, 519-942-3423 or online at


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