The Lebanese sure know how to throw a party. At least, that’s true of Habib and Naseema, who are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary in Western Canada Theatre’s production of Habib’s Unforgettable All Night House Party. This year also happens to be Western Canada Theatre’s 40th anniversary, so this play is an excellent choice to celebrate this theatre season.
The play follows a day in the life of a helter-skelter family as they prepare their house and themselves for the party that will be thrown that evening. As the title of the show suggests, all the action of the play takes place over one night, and what a night it is. The family, whose parents originally settled in Newfoundland after leaving Lebanon, includes six children. One of the brothers never appears onstage, but the cast also includes a family friend/daughter’s love interest, bringing the total number of actors up to eight. With this many people involved, there is hardly a time where there are not at least two people onstage, and never a dull moment is had.
All actors involved play their parts extremely well, with every one of them singing, dancing or playing music at least once throughout the show. There is no doubt that these are all very talented people. The one complaint I do have, however, is about their accents. Habib and Naseema (played by Andy Jones and Maria Vacratis) have very realistic Lebanese accents. Their children, on the other hand, all have varying levels of Newfie accents, even though they were all born there. They all seem to inconsistently dip in and out of their accents, and one brother seems to not have one at all. The variance in dialect is quite noticeable and at times takes away from the dialogue itself. Overlooking this fact, the acting is quite spotless, and I believe the actors were well-chosen to portray such an eccentric family.
Eccentricity is the name of the game in this household, and the entire play epitomizes chaos with many entrances and exits to, from and between the numerous doors both off and on a stage comprised of three levels. These levels make up a number of different acting areas, including a storefront, living room, dining room and bedroom. The bedroom is elaborately decked out with a lavish bedspread and many pillows, and yet this room is used the least of all. It seems a little useless to have such a room on the stage if it is only used for one short scene; however, I cannot imagine another room in which this scene could take place.
The bedroom is not the only ornately-decorated area of this house: the furniture, carpets, couches and knick-knacks all work together to create a busy atmosphere that reflects the lifestyle of these bustling people.
Written by Janet Michael, Habib’s Unforgettable All Night House Party explores the family dynamic of some of the pioneers of Canada’s multiculturalism. This play is set in the 1940’s, right on the cusp of Newfoundland becoming part of Canada, and so it is upon families like this that Canada was truly built. At this time, immigration laws in Newfoundland were very lax, and families like Habib’s were not uncommon. This play is a reminder of Canada’s multiculturalism, without being too self-aware or trying too hard. Even though there is so much going on, Habib’s Unforgettable All Night House Party manages to quietly tell an origin story without drawing too much attention to this fact.
Habib’s Unforgettable All Night House Party runs until April 9 at the Sagebrush Theatre. Student tickets are $19 and are available online at kamloopslive.ca or by visiting the Kamloops Live! Box Office on Lorne Street.