Starting Thursday night (Jan. 23), nine actors will navigate the not-so-big stage at Surrey Little Theatre for a month-long run of The Late Christopher Bean.
Sidney Howard’s comedy-drama, first staged in 1932, is set in the Boston-area home of the Haggetts some years after the death of acclaimed artist Christopher Bean, with an excited world in pursuit of his work and any details they can gather about his life and character.
Dr. Milton Haggett and his family own some of Bean’s canvases, and they begin to get greedy when informed of their market value. Misunderstandings happen along the way, and only the maid, Abby, seems to have genuinely appreciated Bean. Yes, the housekeeper has a secret, and as everyone around her crumbles, she’s the one who stands as a pillar of morality.
“It is Abby who ultimately overcomes them all,” explains Kaitlyn Busswood, who is co-producing the show with her sister, Samantha.
Surrey Little Theatre’s production punches up the comedic nature of the play, which also features some poignant parts.
Although it was written nearly nine decades ago, the story includes themes that are relevant today, including greed, people with self-serving interests, deceit and family problems.
Abby is played by Emily Wheeler, who has been acting on stage since her youth and recently spent two years working in the Vancouver film and TV industry. A bonus for her, she lives in the Clayton area not far from Surrey Little Theatre, located at 7027 184th St.
The cast also includes Michael Powell (as Dr. Haggett), Kelly Thompson (Mrs. Haggett), Makayla Leonard (Susan Haggett), Brittany Vesterback (Ada Haggett), Isaac Fuergutz (Warren Creamer), Meghan Hallam (Tallant), Eric Ritchie (Rosen) and Harry Perring (Maxwell Davenport).
The Busswood sisters have been involved in theatre since before they were born, because they were onstage while still in their mother’s womb. Over the years they have performed almost every role – props, acting, stage managing, concession duties – in theatre, and now produce.
“They have loved being apart of another Surrey Little Theatre show, even with their mother (Cathe) involved (as set designer and decorator),” their bio says. “They would like to thank the volunteers of the theatre, everyone who attends, and ultimately their parents for blessing them with the curse of a love for theatre.”
Years after he wrote The Late Christopher Bean, Howard laboured on the script of Gone with the Wind for more than a year, with David O. Selznick, but never saw a single reel of the completed film when it was released in 1939. That year, “he died in an accident on his farm in Massachusetts when the tractor he was driving rolled over on top of him,” Kaitlyn says of Howard, who in 1940 was posthumously given an Academy Award for the Gone with the Wind screenplay.
The run of Late Christopher Bean at Surrey Little Theatre is from Jan. 23 to Feb. 22, with 8 p.m. shows from Thursday to Saturday and 2 p.m. Sundays. All seats are priced at $20 at surreylittletheatre.com/tickets, or call 1-800-838-3006 for details.
The opening-night gala is planned on Saturday, Jan. 25 – “a semi-formal event that will have good food, good wine and a chance to meet and greet with the cast, director and crew, with door prizes,” Kaitlyn said.
“Surrey Little Theatre is happy to be involved in the community, and giving back to the people and businesses that help keep the theater going,” she added. “In that mindset, we are encouraging cast, crew and audience members to bring a non-perishable to donate to the local food bank. And a reminder that Surrey Little Theatre is a non-profit organization that is a registered charity; tax receipts can be issued for donations.”
Looking ahead, the theatre company will stage Topher Payne’s Perfect Arrangement as its spring show, opening April 23. The play is set in 1950s Washington, D.C. “As the Red Scare looms large, two State Department employees, Bob and Norma, receive orders to expose moral turpitude within the government,” explains a post at surreylittletheatre.com. “But, the coworkers are both gay and have married each other’s partners, Millie and Jim, in a picture-perfect façade of domestic, mid-century bliss separated, literally, by a shared closet door. Inspired by true stories of social survival, this bubbly cocktail party-meets-TV sitcom simmers into poignant realism as the four mates face exposure and a future more gray than Technicolor.”