Shaun McHale (right) has returned to the theatre world after a three-year hiatus and has taken on the role as Officer Pat Brophy in the RCTC’s Arsenic and Old Lace. (Special to the Langley Advance)

Shaun McHale (right) has returned to the theatre world after a three-year hiatus and has taken on the role as Officer Pat Brophy in the RCTC’s Arsenic and Old Lace. (Special to the Langley Advance)

Dark comedy offers challenge to returning Langley actor

A local actor steps back on stage in Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s showing of Arsenic and Old Lace.

Theatre was been a part of Shaun McHale’s world for much of his life, and he thanks his late grandma for making that so.

As a boy growing up in White Rock, his grandmother would volunteer at the local playhouse at least twice a month, and he’d be invited to tag along.

He’d always sneak in to watch the play of the day. Needless to say the action on and off stage resonated with young Shaun, and by age 13 he was cast in his first lead role as Horton in Suessical: The Musical.

“I found it was a really good way to express my creativity and curb my excess energy,” said Shaun, now 28.

Following that first production, he immersed himself in pantomimes and musicals for years, with both the Surrey Youth Theatre and White Rock Players. He even went to acting school in Vancouver a few years back.

But following the passing of his grandmother, Terry McHale, about three years ago he opted to step back from theatre for a while – instead focusing on his paying gig as a full-time landscaper.

It’s his girlfriend, Amy Goheen, he said who can be credited for pulling him back into the theatrical world – and specifically into the world of the Royal Canadian Theatre Company.

It was a chance to share more time with Goheen, who is assistant stage manager on the current production. But it was also Joseph Kesselring’s script and the “ridiculous characters” that ultimately compelled Shaun to audition for the RCTC’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace.

It’s nice to be back in theatre again, Shaun said, admitting he missed it more than he realized.

Shaun has taken on the minor role as Officer Pat Brophy, an Irish cop in Brooklyn in the 1940s. He’s only on stage at the beginning and end of the show.

“It’s a bit of something new for me,” said the young man who lives on the Langley-Surrey border and is aspiring to become a mental health and addictions counsellor.

Describing his character, Shaun said Officer Brophy is not the “sharpest tool in the shed.” But in looking for personality parallels, he said they both share a good sense of humour and “we both enjoy having a good time with loved ones and friends.”

It’s the differences between them, he said, that are motivating him to test himself and grow as an actor.

He’s never done a dark comedy before, and finds the new role challenging. But at the same time, he said, it’s incredibly rewarding, especially under the direction of fellow Langleyite Ellie King.

Arsenic and Old Lace, which had three showings in New Westminster last weekend, will be shown two more times closer to home – at the Surrey Arts Centre, 13750 88th Ave., this Friday and Saturday.

Shaun said he’s looking forward to it, his uncle, step-father, and brother are expected to be in the audience.

“The show will split your sides and rupture your spleen. It’s a dark comedy you don’t want to miss,” he said, attempting to convince other theatre goers to attend this weekend’s showings.

“You’ll be totally entertained. I think you’ll enjoy every minute of it,” Shaun concluded.

Tickets are available online at tickets.surrey.ca or by calling the box office at 604-501-5566.

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Dark comedy offers challenge to returning Langley actor