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Review: STC’s ‘Invention of Romance’ is bold, hilarious take on dating after 30

Solidly directed by Sudbury’s Judi Straughan and starring Sudbury native Jake Deeth, the play runs until Feb. 25

Sudbury Theatre Centre's “The Invention of Romance” is a sweet valentine of theatre, a comedy with a serious message about dating after the age of 30. Bravo to the STC for producing this new Canadian play that was premiered at Workshop West Playwrights’ Theatre in Edmonton in 2014.

Kate, a thirty-something career woman, and her mom, a widow in her late 70s, are both looking for "the perfect man," or as Kate admits “someone who will do everything that you want them to do.”

She finds herself suddenly single when her boyfriend, Cooper, gives her an ultimatum. She’s not sure she wants to marry him nor she does not want to move to another city and leave a job she loves.

While her mom hooks up with an old boyfriend, Kate turns to an online dating service and a series of bad dates.

The play, by Edmonton writer Conni Massing and directed by Sudbury’s own Judi Straughan, has a dozen characters, but only three actors. It takes a director and actors of great skill to get the comedic timing right.

Gabi Epstein is Kate, a museum curator who is planning an exhibit about the history of romance. Laura Goranson plays her mother, Louisa.

Louisa’s beau is one of the characters who does not appear on the stage. The audience hears a lot about Kate's boss, and her boyfriend, Cooper, but they don't appear on stage either. There are also Kate's drinking pals who are heard, but not seen.

Jake Deeth plays all the other male characters, which include Kate's co-worker James, her fantasy perfect man, a waiter, and numerous bad dates. Whatever the STC is paying him, Deeth earns his pay cheque.

He has his work cut out for him. He pulls off his many roles because he has good comedic instincts, although he is not a typical romantic lead.

Deeth is a homegrown talent who now lives in Toronto. He gave a memorable performance as the larger-than-life mother, Edna Turnblad, in Yes Theatre’s “Hairspray” in 2016.

Epstein is convincing in her role as the career woman. This is the first play I have seen where the character is married to her smartphone. Sadly, audiences can expect to see more smartphone addicts on the stage in the future. That’s just reality.

Goranson, whose character may have been based on the writer’s own mother who got married after a period of widowhood, is a senior stereotype. My mother is a decade older and she is far younger in mind and spirit.

On opening night, “The Invention of Romance” got a standing ovation. That’s an indication it will be a hit with local audiences and well worth checking out. There are many good lines in this play that will get a giggle.

“The Invention of Romance” runs until Feb. 25.The pay-what-you-can matinee is the final performance on Sunday, Feb. 25 at 2 p.m.

Theatre reviewer Vicki Gilhula is the associate publisher and editor of the Sudbury Living Magazine Group. An arts lover, she is a longtime board member of the Sudbury Arts Council and a founding member of the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts committee.