Typically, a romantic comedy takes audiences on a journey through the building of a relationship – one filled with the magic of new love.
But an upcoming production by White Rock Players is turning that trope on its head.
Described as a “romantic comedy with teeth” Best Divorce Ever follows a “divorce party” thrown by a couple who have decided to go their separate ways.
Taking the stage in February, arguably the most romantic month of the year, at Oceana Parc Playhouse in its world premiere, the production follows Anna and Otto – Martina Biljan and Alexander Pfleger, respectively – a couple in Finland, who realize that their marriage has come to an end, a conclusion neither saw coming.
The once-perfect exes decide to throw a divorce party or an “anti-wedding” to commemorate the end of their union in a civil manner.
Things seem to not go as planned, however, when an uninvited visitor shows up at the party and shakes up the evening.
The original play is by Ville Nummenpää, a Finnish novelist, playwright and screenwriter, with Best Divorce Ever being the second play he’s produced in his career. The playwright will also be in attendance at the opening weekend in White Rock to see his work performed on stage for the first time ever.
“Ville has written a play that we can all relate to, it’s the song of the old heart chamber,” director Julianne Christie told Peace Arch News on Monday (Jan. 30) morning.
“What we go through and what we endure and how we come together in bliss and how we bust into small pieces when we’re in grief and the big question is who is with you through all of that? How long do you stay? How much do you take?”
When Best Divorce Ever entered Christie’s path, it felt like “a puppet master was playing some cosmic joke on me,” she shared, laughing.
The director said she is able to relate heavily to the source material. So much so, in fact, that she asked producer Fred Partridge to give her a different play to direct.
But, everything worked out how it was supposed to, Christie came to realize.
“I really felt like there were forces out there telling me, ‘You need to direct this play right now.’”
With the epiphany came months of hard work behind the scenes with a crew of roughly 30. Christie credits set builders, lighting professionals and the stage manager as well as cast members for helping create the atmosphere she envisioned.
As the seaside city’s showing will be the first staged production of Nummenpää’s play, Christie was not able to lean on past versions for inspiration on how to lift certain characters or scenes off the page.
“We’re setting the precedent for the whole thing so I hope Ville still loves us after he sees what we did to his play,” she said.
“We do break the fourth wall and there’s narration and absurdity and a great big comedy and these humane, poignant moments of loss, so it’s everything.”
Straying from the original script, respectfully, was necessary for production as Nummenpää’s work was quite lengthy with a lot of chatter. In Christie’s vision, there are lulls to create space for the audience to feel the emotions and “just be,” she shared.
This also created room for the cast to change their characters and create newness that wasn’t “written that way on the page.”
For their part, the cast for Best Divorce Ever comes from around Metro Vancouver, all dedicating volunteer-time to put on a show for audiences.
“They’re coming out of the city, five days a week sometimes. They’re really fascinating, wickedly trained and wicked-smart actors. Weaving (a story) around a group of talented actors is what I think directing should be. So they make some choices and it’s inspiring,” Christie said.
White Rock’s staging of the romantic comedy will run at the Oceana Parc Playhouse (1532 Johnston Rd.) from Feb. 2-19, with a warning for mature language and sexual content.
There will be an 8 p.m. showing on Thursday, Feb. 2 with tickets priced at $20. Following the preview showing, opening night is Friday, then the play will show from Thursdays to Saturdays also at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. until Feb. 19. Tickets are $28 for adults and $24 for seniors and youth, at www.whiterockplayers.ca/buytickets