Lunchbox Theatre

Lunchbox Theatre Blog

Lauchie, Liza and Rory, sibling rivalry at its finest

Blog Entry — Maeike van Dijk @ February 15th, 2011

Andy Williams
Entertainment Editor, The Gauntlet

February 10, 2011

One would assume that a play called Lauchie, Liza and Rory would have at least three actors performing three characters. It doesn’t. The play only has two, and those two actors — Christian Murray and Natasha McLellan– are responsible for 10 different parts.

The play focuses on the story of twins in a small Cape Breton mining town– Rory and Lauchie– and their competitive and complicated relationship with love interest Liza.

“It’s a story of a family and it spans 20 years,” says director Mary-Colin Chisholm. “It’s funny and occasionally it touches home. I think the audience enjoy the story . . . but they also enjoy the theatrical solutions that we arrived at– just dealing with two actors and 10 characters and twins and the length of time.”

The play is an adaptation of a short story written by revered Cape Breton author Sheldon Currie. Currie was approached by a group interested in translating the 10-page short story into a play. He subsequently collaborated with the group to produce a script.

“The original short story was about 10 pages long, but he wrote another 80 pages,” says Chisholm. “He’s the least complicated writer I know because he just goes, ‘Oh, okay,’ and he writes up another scene. He’s remarkable that way . . . He’s got this really wry style. In the same way the Coen brothers have a unique voice when they make a movie, Sheldon Currie has a unique voice when he writes a story.”

Chisholm is well-versed in the intricacies and details of the play– she belonged to the original group that worked with Currie to bring the story to the stage and has been working with the project ever since.

“It’s very close to my heart– I’ve been living with this story for about 15 years,” says Chisholm. “We did it very quickly and it was a very rough version, but we could tell immediately from the response that it was working. So then we’ve refined it, and over the years it just keeps coming up. People still find it interesting.”

The play is now in its second generation of actors and the story has been adapted to fit different stages across Canada and as far away as New Zealand.

“It started out with Burgundy Code and Mike Peterson,” says Chisholm. “Then, my partner Christian [Murray] took over, and he took over during this time when the play was being considerably lengthened and elaborated. Burgundy couldn’t do it and so Natasha MacLellan stepped in.”

The second-generation cast contributes to the play’s character. Its longevity helps set it apart from most theatre productions and pushes it into the same category as other remarkable, long-running Canadian plays like Billy Bishop Goes to War and Albertine en Cinq Temps.

“It’s a very unusual thing in theatre,” concludes Chisholm. “Usually, you get a play, you do three weeks, you do the run and that’s it. This is something I’ve lived with 15 years. It’s a story that keeps finding another audience. It’s the kind of little play that theatre professionals and the regular audience can agree on. It’s a good yarn with good characters.”

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Lauchie, Liza and Rory Interview 1

Blog Entry — Maeike van Dijk @ February 11th, 2011

I’m trying something new for Lunchbox for Lauchie, Liza and Rory. During our Media Call, I conducted some (very) short interviews with the cast and stage manager. Here’s an excerpt from the interview with Christian Murray, about how the show has changed in the years he’s been working on it:

Unfortunately you can hear me hmmming in agreement occasionally. Got to learn either not to do that, or to master audio equalization …

Calgary Herald Review of Lauchie, Liza and Rory

Blog Entry — Maeike van Dijk @ February 11th, 2011

Mining town love triangle a minor miracle


Natasha MacLellan and Christian Murray star in Lauchie, Liza and Rory. Photo by Benjamin Laird.Natasha MacLellan and Christian Murray star in Lauchie, Liza and Rory. Photo by Benjamin Laird.

Natasha MacLellan and Christian Murphy star in Lauchie, Liza and Rory.

A choice between twin brothers made by the woman both love ultimately turns into heartbreak for one of the trio in the amusingly virtuoso display for two actors that opened on Monday at Lunchbox Theatre. The play in question, Lauchie, Liza and Rory, is an adaptation by Cape Breton author Sheldon Currie of one of his own short stories.

It’s easy to see why the show, which premiered in Halifax in 2004 and has since toured Canada from coast to coast with its original cast and production team intact, continues to find success with audiences wherever it plays.

Performed by Natasha MacLellan and Christian Murphy, each in multiple roles, Lauchie, Liza and Rory proves consistently engaging in the timing and conciseness of the ever-changing characterizations that constitute the main interest of the play, which is set in a small Glace Bay mining town.

The story centres on Lauchie, a likably humdrum coal miner who carves wooden birds, and Lauchie’s more wayward twin, Rory – and what happens when they both fall for the same girl, Liza, and she makes a choice that, well, proves premature.

Along the way in the 20-year saga, we meet everyone from a dour, curmudgeonly mater familias and her dry-humoured spinster of a daughter to a good-time girl who ends up pretty far from where she started.

Using only a few select props, the actors have storytelling fun with their material – employing a wigged cut-out on wheels, for example, to assist both actors in their portrayal of the aforementioned matriarch, or a pair of eyeglasses (in the case of MacLellan) to help with the transformation from Liza to the brothers’ wry sister, and back again.

And oh yes, there’s an inspired bit of prop-ery in the depiction of the resonant town priest as a Muppet-like flapping book of prayer.

Other high points?

Well, how about a four-handed game of cards and kibitzing that goes faster and faster without missing a beat – or Rory bringing home the as-yet-unreformed Kitty to an acidulous, disapproving mom?

The minor miracle of this 50-minute production, however, is that for all the breadth and succinct vividness MacLellan and Murphy bring to their handful of other roles, there is convincing emotional depth in their portrayal of Lauchie, Liza and Rory in the sadness that sets in over the latter half of the play.

Earlier in the piece, you might have had trouble seeing what was coming, but you had no trouble accepting once it did.

Rating: Four stars out of five

Lunchbox Theatre presents Lauchie, Liza and Rory by Sheldon Currie through Feb. 26.

Tickets: Call 403-265-4292.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

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Torn between twins (review of Lauchie, Liza and Rory)

Articles and Reviews — Maeike van Dijk @ February 7th, 2011

Last Updated: February 5, 2011 12:02am.

Maritime actor Christian Murray is wondering if perhaps he should get a double salary for his appearance in Lauchie, Liza and Rory that opens its month-long run at Lunchbox Theatre on Monday.

He is playing both Lauchie and Rory, the twin bothers who Liza (Natasha MacLellan) falls in love with in this quirky little love comedy that has wowed audiences across Canada and toured for a month in New Zealand.

“Lauchie and Rory are yin and yang. They are opposite sides of the same coin. Lauchie is pokey, conventional and a little bland. Rory is a womanizing party guy. Liza commits to one of the brothers but then begins to think she made the wrong choice,” says Murray, whose wife Mary-Colin Chisholm directs this Lunchbox production.

It was written by award-winning Maritime writer Sheldon Currie, best known for The Glace Bay Miners’ Museum, which was turned into a play and the film Margaret’s Museum. Murray admits creating the roles of Lauchie and Rory was “initially a bit mind-numbing. I had to figure out who each one was.

“There is a card game in the play where I literally have to keep reminding myself who I am for any given moment. This is just one of the things that makes Lauchie, Liza and Rory so wonderfully theatrical and imaginative.

“It’s the kind of unique and quirky little love story that just cried out to be a play.”

After its Calgary run, Lauchie, Liza and Rory will play in Ottawa at the National Arts Theatre and will tour again in the Maritimes.

It’s showing at Lunchbox Theatre at the base of the Calgary Tower Mondays through Saturdays at 12:10 p.m., Fridays at 6:10 p.m. and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. until Feb. 26. Tickets are available at 403-265-4292.

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The little play that can

Articles and Reviews — Maeike van Dijk @ February 3rd, 2011

Twins fall in love — with the same girl

Lauchie, Liza and Rory presented by Lunchbox Theatre. Photo: Natasha MacLellan as Liza and Christian Murray as Lauchie and Rory. Photo by Emily Jewer.
Monday, February 7 – Saturday, February 26

It’s described “as the little play that could.”

Two twins, one described as the “gawky” Lauchie and the other as “the bad boy twin” Rory, fall in love with the same girl in a ’40s-era coal mining town inLauchie, Liza and Rory.

“It’s become this funny little ambassador for this area of the world,” says Mary-Colin Chisholm, director of the one-act play opening this week.

The play has also been an ambassador for Cape Breton — where the story is set — for nearly 15 years now, after its 1998 debut at Festival Antigonish with Chisholm at its helm.

Lauchie, Liza and Rory actually began as a short story by Sheldon Currie, best known for his novel The Glace Bay Miners’ Museum, which was turned into the filmMargaret’s Museum, starring Helena Bonham Carter.

Covering two decades in the history of a family,Lauchie, Liza and Rory tells the story about the twins and their shared love for Liza.

“It’s petite and epic at the same time,” says Chisholm.

Actor Christian Murray portrays both twins.

“It’s like a two-man one-man show, with actors flipping in and out of characters all the time,” says Chisholm. “It makes it really lively for people watching.”

Chisholm says the play actually broke new ground when it was first presented in 1998.

“It was the surprise hit that summer. It had a fresh feeling, both the story and the theatricality of it. We were coming up with creative staging solutions that weren’t common at the time.”

Following that first performance in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, the show went through some rewrites and ended up playing at festivals across Canada. It even went as far as New Zealand.

“It fit right into the New Zealand coal mining towns,” says Chisholm.

Because the play is set in Cape Breton — Currie is a Cape Breton native and Chisholm is from Antigonish — coal mining plays a central role in the story and helps give the show its distinct regional flavour.

“We’re always aware the characters have to make economic choices, and there’s a sense of fatality about the mines, where the brothers work,” she explains.

Chisholm says the “Cape Breton feel” of Lauchie, Liza and Rory also comes from the twins’ mother’s pessimism. “She’s a real Cape Breton matriarch, who’s pessimistic to the point it’s funny.”

She describes the play as “very funny,” with Currie’s deadpan humour and his ability to turn clever phrases.

“He catches the kind of wryness that he grew up with in Cape Breton,” Chisholm says, providing an example from the play: “Did you make the right choice? I guess you make a choice and then you make it right.”

The play is a gentle portrait of a family that cares about each other and family duty.

Chisholm, who has been with the show since the beginning, has also been its producer for the past four years to keep the show’s momentum.

And her efforts are paying off. This spring, Lauchie, Liza and Rory will run at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

As to the question whether the play has a happy ending, Chisholm says it will be up to viewers to decide.

“We should probably do a poll with the audience at the end of the show as to whether they think it’s a happy, sad ending, or a sad, happy ending.”

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