Theatre Orangeville’s first live show back wows audiences

August 20, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Audiences are not hesitating to give Mark Crawford a standing ovation at the end of his live Theatre Orangeville performance of Chase the Ace. He deserves the acclaim for his well thought out and funny play, which he wrote and in which he plays all the characters.

The show is being held out of doors at the Mount Alverno Resort, on Heart Lake Road, just south of Hwy 9, running east from town. People have found the audience accommodation of the tent and the specifically spaced pairs of chairs perfectly comfortable, both from the point of view of personal safety and seats that are fine for the duration of the show, 75 minutes.

In brief, this one act play is about a radio host, Charlie King, with the best morning show in the city, who has a traumatic moment on his show, leading him to be fired on the spot, with the ongoing drama of separation, not only from his home and his wife, who was cheating on him, but perhaps the saddest blow of all – she kept the cat.

Charlie moves to Port Belette, a very small town well away from the city, where, much to his surprise, things can also be very complicated. Forced into a role of sleuth, Charlie is likewise a bungler, and Mr. Crawford makes fun of many issues, while never missing the chance to give his audiences food for thought.

There are plenty of elements to the story Mark Crawford weaves under many guises. He makes us believe all those characters, as he shifts his voice and body around each one.

Central to the plot is the gambling game of Chase the Ace, in this village. It has taken off and people are coming from far and wide to take a chance on winning big. Yet, is someone else winning too?

Some of his characters are nicely exaggerated but not so far: you can still recognize any of them from people you have met or may even know.

Mr. Crawford has been directed in this role by veteran director, Miles Potter, who has certainly honed the timing and the character shifting to a fine tune. Miles Potter has directed plays in most of the major theatres in Canada, including a long list at Stratford. In doing several performances of his play over a reasonably tight schedule and the directions Miles Potter gave him have, no doubt, contributed to the smoothness and excellent pace at which Mr. Crawford takes us through this story. It is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Having clearly seen the problems which Covid has brought to the theatre, Mark Crawford has been wise and ambitious in putting together a show he can perform entirely on his own, provide the set and carry everything he needs in his car. Indeed, he can brand himself a one-man touring troupe, with just that chair and table as props.

“They fit right into my car,” he once told the Citizen.

Makes him a one person bubble, safe to show up and present his play to audiences pining for live entertainment and, maybe, already aware of how much fun his other plays are. In fact, Theatre Orangeville is the second of his “Rolling World Premier performances of Chase the Ace.” His initial presentation was in Port Dover with the Lighthouse Festival Theatre and after his stint here at Theatre Orangeville, he travels on for two more runs in Prince Edward County and Blythe Festival. 

There are definitely (as is possible in these swirling times) plans for Theatre Orangeville to produce in-theatre shows for their 2021/2022 season. At the moment, the kind of numbers to be allowed in the theatre audience space of potentially 270 patrons, is not known. Yet, there is a determination to open the doors and allow however many people the protocol permits and who want to come. As to the abundant use of technology and the online life, some of that may be phased out but there are surely many lessons learned and a degree of knowledge acquired which will dictate part of Theatre Orangeville’s approach to being sure that everyone who wants to see those shows will be able to.

Coming next to the same venue, is Josiah, collaboratively created between Charles Robertson, writing and directing, and Cassel Miles who stars in the show. This is the life of Josiah Henson and combines drama, dance and movement to explore Josiah’s life as a slave, his terrifying escape to Canada and his brave return south to bring more slaves to freedom and safety. Opens live September 8 and runs until September 19.

Meanwhile, to Mark Crawford and his beleaguered Charlie King, many thanks for breaking the silence we have suffered by not being able to go to the theatre live. Mr. Crawford’s Chase the Ace has two evening performances left: this evening and tomorrow evening (Friday), both at 7:00 p.m. and still outdoors under the “canvas” at Mount Alverno Resort. However, the show is also online as of August 18 and runs until September 7. You can obtain virtual tickets for that as before.

For all the information and to purchase tickets and subscriptions please go to or call the lovely people in the box office at 519-942-3423.

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