Volume 12 Week 5

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Bob Monette



(Posted Oct. 5)

Vintage Stock 'Shades of the Evening' production a touching retrospective
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Old Phoebe, played by Micheline Mathon, talks to her mother Morhannah, played by Kimberly McGrath, during Vintage Stock Theatre's Shades of the Evening production of 'A Life In a Day'. Fred Sherwin Photo

This time every year the Vintage Stock Theatre company stages it's annual "Shades of the Evening" production on the grounds of the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum.

In years past, the production has been based on historical events and figures with a local connection. This year the theatre company chose a script written by local playwrite Susan Flemming and directed by Sarah Benefield that takes a departure from previous productions.

A Life In a Day tells the story of Irish immigrants in places like Cumberland and Navan through the recollections of Phoebe Catherine Walker who was born in 1903.

Phoebe's story is told through a series of vignettes in which she gets to visit moments in time including shortly after her birth; preparing for a history contest as a young girl; her first day as a teacher; seeing her husband off at the onset of the Great War; having him return after being blinded in gas attack; becoming a seamstress after the death of both her husband and her eldest son who is killed in the Second World War; and finally with her great granddaughter and namesake shortly before her death at the age of 100.

The attacking is all wonderful, especially the performance of Micheline Mathon in the lead role of Old Phoebe. Sophia Hullin and Meredith Woods also stood out as the teenage Phoebe and her best friend Louisa. But the real star of the play is the script.

Flemming is masterful at telling a story in such a way that the entire audience can relate to it, while placing it in a historical context.

Through Phoebe we learn about the ordeals the early Irish settlers went through starting with their passage across the Atlantic on the aptly-named "coffin ships" in which thiusands died who are now buried on Grosse Isle near Quebec City.

We also learn about how Irish settlers helped build hundreds of communities in Canada like Cumberland and Carslbad Springs and Navan, timber by timber and brick by brick.

Flemming touches on the major battles in World War I and the use of gas by the Germans in places like Ypres and Passchendale and how the returning soldiers brought back the Spanish Flu with them leading to the deaths of nearly 50,000 Canadians and more than 50 million worldwide.

There are other things that make A Life In a Day so special, like the love of flowers Phoebe shared with her mother including an affinity for their Latin scientific names and genus. By the end of the play we are left feeling both sympathetic and fulfilled. Phoebe's story comes full circle with her passing after 100 years on earth and the expectant birth of her great great granddaughter.

The cast includes Kimberly McGrath as Phoebe's mother Morhannah; Karine Longpre as Young Phoebe; Reid DeLong as Phoebe's husband Daniel; Gisele Rivest as Middle Phoebe; Marseille Lachance as the great granddaughter; Troy Arsenian as Craig; and Pierrette Woods and Ellen Manchee who each played Mrs. Heaps.

The Shades of the Evening series is made even more magical as a result of it being staged entirely by lamplight. The production simply moves from one location to another on the museum grounds.

The play will come to a close with a final performance tonight at 8 p.m. The Cumberland Heritage Village Museum is located on Old Montreal Road jut east of Cumberland Village. Admission is $15 per person.

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)



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