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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Theatre review: Bed & Breakfast is destined for bigger things

An open letter to CBC Television

Dear CBC Television,

With the recent announcement that the homegrown sitcom Schitt’s Creek will end after its sixth season next year, there will be an obvious hole to fill in your comedy schedule. Have you given consideration to taking an option on Mark Crawford’s Bed & Breakfast?

You don’t need to be reminded this wouldn’t be the first time our national broadcaster has looked to the stage for inspiration. After all, another of your hit sitcoms, Kim’s Convenience, also began life on stages across the country.

And like both Schitt’s Creek and Kim’s Convenience, Bed & Breakfast is so filled with warmth, heart and eccentric characters it could easily provide fodder for half a dozen seasons of its own.

It also tackles some more serious issues which, sadly, are still prevalent today, but it is all tempered with a quintessentially Canadian self-effacing humour that makes it perfect for television.

Just in case you’re not familiar with Bed & Breakfast though, it is the story of two Toronto gay men who, after inheriting a house in small-town Ontario from a favourite “aunt”, decide to give up life in the big city to open a bed and breakfast in their newly acquired home.

Sure there is much comedy made of this “fish-out-of-water” story, but it is honest, delightfully funny, and from it flows an undercurrent of seriousness that makes the best sitcoms rise to the top. And like the gay characters on Schitt’s Creek, the two at the centre of this story are relatable to a straight audience too!

And even while in its stage form the dozen or so characters who make an appearance are all seamlessly portrayed by just two actors, with so much more gold to be mined from many of these wonderfully eccentric oddballs, it is a shame they don’t individually get more airtime.

Speaking of actors, the casting would be relatively easy for at least the show’s main characters Brett and Drew, as you’d be hard pressed to find two more accomplished performers than Crawford and his partner Paul Dunn. You know, like you did by hiring Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Appa on Kim’s Convenience after originating the role in the stage version?

And like Schitt’s Creek, with Crawford you’ll get another Canadian “twofer” by not only having him reprise his role as Brett, but you’ll also have the added benefit of having a head writer already deeply familiar with the work. It is a formula that obviously works for Eugene and Daniel.

In Bed & Breakfast, Mike Crawford and Paul Dunn seamlessly take on the personas of a dozen or so characters. Photo by Moonrider Productions.
In Bed & Breakfast, Mike Crawford and Paul Dunn seamlessly take on the personas of a dozen or so characters. Photo by Moonrider Productions.

While you’re at it, you might also want to give consideration to bringing along director Ashlie Corcoran. She not only has history with the show, as it was first developed under her tenure at Thousands Islands Playhouse in Ontario, but here she does a really nice job of keeping things moving at a rapid pace. And when you only have 22 minutes in a television sitcom, knowing how to help actors effectively tell a story within a limited time-frame, her knowledge of the material would be invaluable.

You’ll also want to think about taking some of the other creative team as well. Imagine what set designer Dana Osborne would be able to do in bringing the various locations to life given she effectively does it on stage with a minimalist set. Osborne is ably assisted by lighting designer Rebecca Picherack who helps to delineate between both mood and locale, not to mention John Gzowki’s sound design which includes near perfect sound effects and music score. It seems like a perfect creative trifecta for a move to television.

Sure, some of the tropes in Bed & Breakfast might be a little worn, but they still translate well for a broader audience. And with more time to play with the characters Crawford has created via an ongoing series, we’ll all have an opportunity to get to know each of them that much better.

Finally, I would be remiss in pointing out that in my 2014 review of Kim’s Convenience, on the very same Granville Island Stage no less, I recognized it as having the potential as a new Canadian sitcom too.  And look what became of that “prediction”.

But even if Bed & Breakfast never makes it from stage to the living rooms across the country, at the very least, right now, Vancouver audiences will have an opportunity to see this little gem of a play.

And who knows, they may even be able to look back in a year or so after it becomes another CBC hit comedy and say, “I was there when…”.

Bed & Breakfast by Mark Crawford. Directed by Ashlie Corcoran. An Arts Club Theatre Company production in partnership with Great Canadian Theatre Company. On stage at the Granville Island Stage (1585 Johnston St, Vancouver) until May 4. Visit for tickets and information.

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