Stage North returns to the stage tonight for the first time since the pandemic began.
The company is set for a three-show run of George F. Walker’s 1993 play Tough! — finally, after being forced to cancel a week before the curtains were scheduled to rise in March. It’s their first performance since last fall’s production of The Addams Family, and the first public performance at the North Peace Cultural Centre since spring.
“It feels really good,” says actress Katea Nelson, recently seen in The Addams Family and North Peace Secondary’s production of Mamma Mia!
“We’re the first ones back too. We’re finally getting back to something that we enjoy, and it feels good to not be sitting in the house reading your lines. It feels good to be actually yelling them at somebody again.”
And plenty of yelling there is.
The premise of Tough! is simple and set in a park, two teenagers confronting one of life’s great bombshells and its complications — pregnancy.
Neither Tina (played by Kaymia Wheat), nor Bobby (played by Tanner Willier) are particularly enthused by the news.
“They’re seeing the future coming at them, and have made some very adult mistakes and very childish mistakes, and are trying to figure where they’re going with that,” says director Michael Leigh.
“I was drawn to it because it featured younger characters, and I wanted to cast it with younger actors to try to get that chance for some newer faces up on the stage.
“The age group I was looking at were ones that did the high school shows, so they would have experienced mass acting where maybe you don’t have as much of a chance to dig in to what really your character development is. I thought it would be a lot of fun to push people there.”
Leigh says he approached the show as a dark comedy — a rollercoaster of a drama that has just enough comedy to blur the lines.
“The comedy is much more subtle, and it’s a situation that we’ve all been in, or know somebody has been in, cranked up to 11,” he said.
The play is geared to audiences 16 and older, and pulls no punches with its subject matter and language.
“Tina is a poor confused teenager,” says Wheat, seen last in She Kills Monsters and Tony and Tina’s Wedding.
“She wants to check the boxes, she wants to fit the mould but she doesn’t, and she picks the wrong person to try and do that with. Instead of letting that go, she desperately wants it to be right.”
Rounding out this three-handed triangle is Tina's best friend Jill, played by Nelson, who doesn’t hold back her fiery temper and opinions of Bobby.
“She has some anger issues. She’s a pretty sardonic person, but she’s a super loyal friend,” says Nelson. “That’s why she’s there. She is there for Tina even if she doesn’t like Bobby too much.”
Bobby meanwhile is trying to figure out what he’s doing with his life, and what to do next as Tina and Jill plan to move on.
“It doesn’t work out so good," says Willier, last seen in Bordello of the Damned and The Alcan Craze of ‘42. “Some progress is made, not a lot, but a little bit. I mostly just get kicked and yelled at.”
Rounding out the production crew are Brenda Zohren, Rachel Nelson, and Chelsey Farquhar.
Tough! runs Oct. 22 to 24 at the North Peace Cultural Centre. Only 50 tickets are available for each show to meet pandemic protocols, and the shows are already half sold.
“It’s interesting to be back. We get to interact with all the crew, all the cast, because that’s just how it has to go,” says Wheat.
“It’ll be different once the doors open and we’re no longer allowed to do some of the things we used to do. Immediately after a show you used to be able to go out and say hi to everybody, or go mingle in the lobby. Now, we’re going to have strict rules.”
Added Leigh: “I’ve been with this show for so long now, it’s been over a year since I officially was going to be doing the show. It’s really nice to be able to see it up on a stage.”
The performances will also be livestreamed.
For more info, call the NPCC at 250-785-1992, or click here for ticket information.
Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at email@example.com.