All in the family: Surrey Little Theatre’s production of “Slow Dancing” is staged with the help of assistant director Spencer Shearman, director Margaret Shearman (now also cast as Mary) and properties master Grace Shearman. (submitted photo)

‘Slow Dancing’ springs to life at Surrey Little Theatre

Family members get to work on company’s final play of the season

By Melanie Minty, arts columnist

Surrey Little Theatre winds up its season with a remarkable and sensitive play, Slow Dancing. The title is misleading – there is no dancing, at least in the conventional sense of the word. Maybe lives are like a slow dance, open to interpretation at every step, and ends when the music stops. Slow Dancing is all about how we see the world around us – and the people we meet in our slow dance of life.

Written by Shelley Picard and directed by the talented Margaret Shearman, Slow Dancing runs from April 19 to May 12, with shows Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and 2 p.m. matinees on Sundays. Tickets available online at brownpapertickets.com or reservations@surreylittletheatre.com, by phone at 604-576-8451, or visit the company’s website, surreylittletheatre.com.

Shearman is making her directorial debut with this production. She has been a mainstay at SLT for the past several years, turning in brilliant performances. She attended every play, I think, that every local community theatre group has presented. The script of Slow Dancing appealed to her, and she brought it to the SLT play-reading committee.

Originally scheduled to be the first play of this season, Slow Dancing got rescheduled to the final spot of the season, and, by default almost, it is the 2018 Theatre BC regionalfestival entry. That is just one of the challenges that faced this particular production.

This is not a comedy, and deals with homelessness, prejudices, terminal illness and social pressures. Sounds dreary. But actually the story is full of heart, and acceptance in this slow dance of life. The music always ends sometime.

The basic story: Mary, a homeless woman, befriends Ann, a young pregnant woman, much to the dismay of Ann’s husband, Charlie. George, Mary’s friend who died and is now an ever-present spirit in her life, gently guides Mary to help Ann when Ann is faced with some very tough choices.

Maegen Eastwood, straight from Vagabond Players’ recent pantomime, finds herself in a highly charged drama portraying Ann. “I love the character,” Eastwood related. “It should be sad, but she (Ann) is such a strong woman.”

Aaron Elliott plays Charlie, Ann’s husband. Elliott finds Charlie a very flawed human being and agrees that the character is both fun to play as well as challenging.

One of the most charming characters is George, played by Chilliwack’s Ken Fynn. George is a ghost, and only Mary can see and hear him. Fynn sees his challenges as being a real live person on stage, but as a ghost he can’t touch or move anything. Other than Mary, no one else can see or hear him. Interesting.

Slow Dancing is about finding your family and your place. Margaret Shearman has surrounded herself with her family for this production. Son Spencer Shearman, is assistant director and daughter Grace Shearman is props master. Margaret jumped into the role of Mary, as the original person cast in this role had to drop out. Two weeks before opening night, Margaret had lost her voice, but whispers, “We are doing fine.”

Offstage, there is more family-style help. Sarah Lohnes is stage manager with daughters Molly and Hannah in the tech booth. These jobs are so important to the successful presentation of any live performance. Molly and Hannah more or less grew up at Surrey Little Theatre, cutting their tech-skill teeth at the theatre when they were still in high school.

Slow Dancing looks at homelessness as well as family dynamic. We often just pass by a homeless person, but Fynn says, “the homeless are people with a life, and a story. There is a reason they are homeless.”

This play seems to be very fitting at this point in the history of Surrey Little Theatre as they face development pressures from the city and may be looking at being homeless as well. It is the family – whether related or not – that can make a difference. Slow Dancing gives us insight, and awareness.

During the play’s run at the theatre (7027 184th St.), some nights are already sold out, so check in soon. Margaret’s voice will return, the sets will get painted, and it’ll all magically come together for an experience you won’t want to miss. The music and the dance continues.

melminty@telus.net

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