Arts and Entertainment

Theatre Orangeville’s superb production of The Rules of Playing Risk is on

April 22, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

When the audience cannot come to the theatre for the production, sit in their favourite seats, vigorously applaud the talent and the story that were presented on the stage; when we can’t join David and the cast and crew down in the atrium for wine and goodies on opening night or stay behind and join in a Q & A with that cast and crew, what have the gang at Theatre Orangeville done to make us feel better about seeing a play?

They have created a “hybrid.” Like a magic trick: like theatre magic.

This is the current production of Theatre Orangeville Online, a one-act play, The Rules of Playing Risk by Kristen Da Silva, which is truly a time in the theatre on film. There is an intimacy about the filming, unlike live recordings of plays done elsewhere at other times. The Rules of Playing Risk is filmed very close to the set, not at a distance, so that the actors and the set are the whole picture. This approach, combined with the luxuries filming allows, like close-ups, makes for a rich and very rewarding experience. 

Actor and long-time performer with Theatre Orangeville, Liam MacDonald commented, “We’ve labelled this a hybrid. But this still feels like a theatre production.”

To briefly outline the story, Garfield Lyons, a retired firefighter recovering from a recent accident and inclined more as a recluse than otherwise, receives a letter from his grandson’s mother that the boy, Brandon, is coming to spend a couple of weeks with him. Brandon is under house arrest and needs somewhere to live so that his mother can go to work.

All negativity, Garfield is ready to send an emphatic “no” by return of mail but Maggie, the nurse visiting him several times a week, insists it would be better for him and the boy to say yes. In many ways, the pivot of the plot is that Garfield’s son, who is also Brandon’s father, died before the boy was born.

“He’s your grandson!” Maggie declares, “You haven’t seen him for 13 years, not since he was one year old.”

Fourteen-year-old Brandon does come and the two of them – the three of them, for that matter –can they struggle and banter their ways to reconciliation between the elder and younger men? That is never a given, for both Garfield and Brandon have histories that matter to that chance of friendship and chance does become thin and raw.

After several childhood spins on the main stage here at Theatre Orangeville, the last one in 2018, Liam returns as a teenager with considerable acting experience from a Mirvish production and a collection of movie roles under Hallmark. His skill and passion impressed his long term friend and director, David Nairn.

David Nairn, directing this production, had remarked that he was somewhat taken aback to hear some of the passion and some of the language [there is adult language in the play], admitting that it is “quite a leap from what we’ve done before.” 

Maybe, but the continuity is the excellence of the production, the acting and the writing. We have always admired the skill and ingenuity of the set designs at the theatre and Becky Morris is back with another beautiful set, with the extra constraints the style of the show imposes on design. The whole story takes place on Garfield’s front porch, with clap board walls and a nice piece of furniture, matching economy with charm and exactly the right mood. During this pandemic time featuring the different entertainments Theatre Orangeville has produced, the stage was set and arranged to accommodate the structure and purpose of those shows. They were simple, cautious, elegant.

This time, Ms. Morris’ talents needed to expand and support a play. She provided a place we can believe. It gives the characters and their stories everything they need.

Lighting and audio are not the same on film as live on the stage. Yet, designer, Dan Palmieri has also dealt with the difference: life to the moments, highlight to the film shooting, keeping it “real” with the sound effects – so easy and nice to watch.

Directing the play in tandem with Sara May, videographer and editor, Mr. Nairn explained that during the filming, he was watching on a monitor, which was quite a different experience. Over the many hours of filming, it was Ms. May calling out positioning and focus. The result is brilliant.

Welcome back to Neil Foster, as Garfield. He gives a convincing performance of a pained – in more ways than one – older man reluctant to face the past of his own life that Brandon will introduce. He is humorous and grumpy: many of us will know him. Still, he makes us like him and hope for peace in his heart.

Playing Maggie is Erin MacKinnon, who is nice and a disciplinarian as required, pressing Garfield to cooperate, dealing with his push back. Ms. MacKinnon is all business, except when she is a best friend. She is the glue that keeps the other two in line.

Great to have Liam back after these years. He is so thrilled to have the moment to let loose his inner angst-ridden teen.

“At this age,” Liam said during our last interview, “you don’t get to be honest on the stage. I get to feel who Brandon is and take who I am. Some of the scenes… are the most honest I’ve ever done. It’s been a great opportunity to stretch.”

Theatre Orangeville is delighted to announce you can now stream the Theatre Orangeville Presents Online shows onto your T.V. They offer instructions and different examples of how you can easily cast the plays to your televisions on the Theatre Orangeville website. If you have any problems, you can call them for help.

David Nairn calls this two worlds colliding: first theatre and then film. It is a revelation, quite innovative and you will love it.

For your virtual tickets go to or call the Box Office at 519-942-2423.

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