Chronicling a Love Affair with Canadian Theatre

myth of the ostrich

Myth Of The Ostrich at Here For Now Theatre

When I saw Liars at a Funeral at the Blyth Festival, I thought I had seen the funniest show of the 2023 season. Matt Murray’s 2014 comedy Myth of the Ostrich, in a dream of a production at Stratford’s Here For Now Theatre, is giving it some stiff competition in the laughter sweepstakes.

Holly (Sarah-Jeanne Hosie), a free-spirited freelance writer and single mom to 16-year-old Jody, is busy cursing out her publisher and confronting her writer’s block, when Pam (Lauren Bowler), a strait-laced drug prosecutor’s wife and member of the Catholic Women’s League, arrives unannounced.

Pam, it seems, has discovered, hidden under his mattress, a letter her 15-year-old son Evan has written to Jody. Since Pam and her husband, who has a way of calling his wife every 15 minutes to check up on on her, don’t allow Evan to date, this is a matter for the mothers to discuss face to face.

The oil meets water nature of this encounter – Holly refuses to read the letter and like any self-respecting liberal admonishes Pam on respecting kids’ privacy – is well established when Holly’s friend Cheryl (Barbara Kozicki Beall), an even freer spirit, bounds in effusing over the mystery of the missing condom that featured prominently in her latest sexual encounter.

Murray does a good job of setting up the parameters of his comedy in quick strokes and funny lines. (“Was your ex-husband a sports fan?” “Are prostitutes a sport?”) The best humour, of course, emerges from character and here Myth of the Ostrich excels.

At one extreme is arch-conservative Pam, who is perhaps more uptight than usual because she has been abstaining from sugar for two difficult weeks. On the other is Cheryl, a foul-mouthed, hippie-esque ex-bartender with a taste for certain extra-legal recreational pursuits, not to mention rotten taste in men. In the middle is Holly, the staunchly liberal writer who keeps a bottle of Jameson’s on hand to grease the creative wheels and who tries to keep things on an even keel. What could go wrong?

Quite a bit as it turns out. As to precisely what transpires, my electronic lips are sealed. Suffice it to say you will find it hard to draw breath between laughs. As one friend who has seen the show advised “Bring extra underwear…I almost peed in my pants!!”

It might be easy to describe Myth of the Ostrich as situation comedy but that sells it short. Murray is seemingly incapable of resorting to the sort of “like-a-jokes” that are the stock in trade of most sitcoms. The humour is character driven, the writing is razor-sharp, and every laugh is earned.

As good as Murray’s script is, Myth of the Ostrich could fail miserably without a first-rate cast. The director, Sheila McCarthy, has assembled a stellar one. Hosie (whom I admired in Ross Petty’s last panto) and Beall (new to me) are both terrific, but the gold medal must go to Bowler (another new blip on my radar screen), whose hysterically funny and, to my mind, utterly accurate portrayal of Pam, both at rest and in extremis, is a minor masterpiece of comic technique.

When actors are this good, I have learned, a great deal of credit must be accorded the director, so another tip of the hat to McCarthy. She obviously knows her stuff, since she has won two Genie Awards, two Gemini Awards, an ACTRA Award, and two Dora Awards. Monique Lund, an impressive actress in her own right, provided the just-right set and costumes.

Myth of the Ostrich (the title actually does make sense) serves up 80 uninterrupted minutes of raucous laughter that had me doubled over more than once. The final, bring-down-the-curtain gag is one of the funniest I have ever seen and one that seemed to forge a new bond of friendship among these three very different women.

I was not alone in my enjoyment. The show got an extended and well-deserved ovation. I suspect that as word of mouth spreads tickets will be hard to come by. Forewarned is forearmed.

Myth of the Ostrich is the inaugural production in the peripatetic Here For Now Theatre’s latest venue, the gleaming white “Laura Dinner and Richard Rooney Tent” nestled in the woods behind the Stratford Perth Museum on the western edge of Stratford.

The tent is accessed via a meandering path and a golf cart is available for those with mobility issues. The tiny stage and intimate (and very comfortable) seating are covered by the tent. Performances take place rain or shine; so wear appropriate footwear if it’s wet.

Once you attend, hang on to the programme, which provides information on all the plays in the season, and bring it along when you attend again. I only wish it had included cast bios.

Myth of the Ostrich plays through July 15, 2023. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Here For Now Theatre website.

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