Maddening funny, mischievous and magical are no quite enough to describe Lucia Frangione’s Cariboo Magi, returning to Pacific Theatresince its smashing debut in 2001. CJSF A&E’s Elana Chan had the pleasure of attending this energetic performance on December 1, 2006.
Cariboo Magi is a 2-act, 4-actor play set in Western U.S. and Canada in 1870. The audience meets the owner of a San Diego saloon, Madame Fanny Dubeau – verbose, pushy, kind-hearted, and also in debt. Her usual and only customer is Reverend William Teller, who has yet to successfully convert anyone to Christianity since his arrival to the new world a decade ago. Fate intervenes in their seemingly hopeless situations as the American Post mistakenly delivers an invitation to Fanny instead of a famous theatre group, with a generous advance for their travel to Barkerville, British Columbia. Thinking that they would be performing where the coffee grows (ie. Columbia), Fanny accepts the invitation and recruits a talented Canadian poet and a pregnant ex-actress to join her new “theatre group”.
Frangione’s bold portrayal of Fanny, always speaking her mind, usually in English with a French accent and French vocabulary, compels the audience to sympathize and love her. Also notable was Dirk Van Stralen, who had won an outstanding lead actor nomination for his role as William in 2001. The Reverend is usually a bit drunk and somewhat pathetic, but instead of making the audience feel sorry for him, Van Stralen manages to have the audience laughing with him at the ironies and failures in his life.
The Pacific Theatre is a cozy venue, where the audience sits on both sides of the performance space. The set is simple. Scenery Designer Kevin McAllister returns to design Cariboo Magi after its successful debut. The wooden board is the perfect saloon floor for dancing, and while folded up, it is part of a ship, a traveling wagon, and the base of a tent. No sophisticated lighting system or background music is required, as the audience sits very close to the stage, as if taking part in the performance. The actors not only interact closely with one another, but also with the simple set, making their improvisation very believable. It shows that great performance often need little other than great actors.
Setting in the winter months prior to Christmas, Cariboo Magi is especially enjoyable at the festive time of the year. Cariboo Magi is playing at Pacific Theatre on 12th and Hemlock until December 30, 2006.
For more information, visit pacifictheatre.org. Come ready to be entertained and leave with a smile on face.