BY TARA McCARTHY
Empty cans of beer dot the surface of a kitchen table positioned centre stage. And only minutes into The Mighty Carlins it becomes evident that there’ll be plenty more to join them.
The crass comedy, written by Edmonton-based playwright Collin Doyle and presented by Nakai Theatre, marries three men’s penchants for alcohol with revealing conversations and equal parts heavy-heartedness. The Carlin men gather for an annual homage to their deceased wife and mother. However, fuelled by brews and tequila, the subject matter inevitably touches on just about every facet of their lives.
Leo Carlin, played by John Wright, pairs brutish pride with paranoia and quick wit. These undeniably entertaining traits are the backbone of his behaviour when sons Mike and Davey visit for a sharing circle on the anniversary of their mother’s death.
Saskatoon-based actor Joshua Beaudry is cast as older son Mike. The oafish, unemployed, overweight sibling is dealt a constant barrage of insults from his father, including the endearing pet name “Many Chins.”
As the play opens, Mike and Leo begin the evening of drinking and reminiscing with foul-mouthed banter that continues to disintegrate into a childish display of bickering. And with the bickering comes ridiculous and relatable comedic performances.
Completing the dysfunctional family is younger brother Davey, played by local actor Brian Fidler. From his cowlick, to his neatly trimmed mustache and off-kilter tie, he portrays the meeker, more cowardly side of the Carlin clan.
The Mighty Carlins demonstrates how simplicity can be one of the most delectable elements of theatre. This three-man show relies not on an elaborate set or lighting cues, but on the masterful lucidity each of its players brings to their roles.
Wright drips with insulting diatribe. Throughout the play he slowly dismantles from a brash, child-like man to reveal deep-seated angst, regret and denial. When things begin to go awry at the sharing circle, Wright captures the audience as he glimpses out past the rows of seats with a single tear tracing his cheek.
Similarly, Beaudry convincingly portrays a shameless young man who concentrates on harebrained schemes over accepting the trials and tribulations of his childhood. His presence onstage is infectious, from bouts of physical comedy to drunken commentaries.
And while Leo and Mike share a loud-mouthed sensibility, Fidler brings the perfect dose of awkwardness and careful sensitivity to innocent Davey. His twitching body language and a frequent stutter, shows the character as a sort of outsider within his own family and provides a naive hilarity.
While each actor carved their characters into something utterly embraceable, their performances together were most refreshing. Like any successful situational comedy, The Mighty Carlins excels via the powerful sum of its parts.
Doyle’s playwriting presents a reality that the audience can relate to – whether they admit it or not. The father and sons take the piss out of each other and examine who they are and where they came from.
And with a family like that, it never hurts to have few brews on hand.
The Nakai Theatre’s presentation of The Mighty Carlins continues until Saturday, March 28. Shows are at 8 p.m. at The Old Fire Hall. Tickets are available at the Yukon Arts Centre box office and Arts Underground.