The Charity That Began At Home
It’s more likely to see Halley’s Comet twice in a lifetime than it is to see Fiona Reid (left), Jim Mezon (centre), and Laurie Patton (right) in a rib tickling story in The Court House Theatre together. The Shaw Festival presentation of ‘The Charity That Began at Home’ runs until October 11.

Comically Honest and Curiously Compelling

Is it not a truism that people primarily fall into three distinct categories: pleasant, not-so-pleasant, and you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me?

You’ll find them all here in St John Hankin’s country house comedy The Charity that Began at Home where director Christopher Newton delivers more laughs that what should be permissible by law.

And if you take a moment to reflect on the greatest gift one can extend to another—money, jewelry, or perhaps even a brand new automobile would all qualify as dandy gestures of appreciation. Yet none of those things mean anything to a motley crew of undesirables who are all receiving the endowment of fellowship for being unwanted.

After all, it’s the simple things we do for others that serve as the most invaluable act of kindness, not material possessions.

This nutty bunch of disagreables congregate at the home Lady Denison (Fiona Reid) who insists ‘the less people deserve, the more we ought to help them.’ The true social event conspirator is Basil (Graeme Somerville), a man of ‘peculiar doctrines.’ Lady Denison’s sister-in-law, Mrs. Eversleigh (Laurie Paton), is critically vocal of the new form of philanthropy and foreshadows its imminent demise.

While everyone is on their best behaviour, daughter Margery (Julia Course) announces her engagement to notably charming Hugh (Marin Happer)whose quesitonable past precedes him.

It’s impossible not to love what Jim Mezon does with the long winded General Bonsor. Not only is it rare to see this actor in a comedic light but his portrayal of ‘the greatest bore in London’ is pure sensory stimulus.

One of the play’s funniest moments arises when Lady Denison, Basil and Mrs. Eversleigh exchange awkward glances at one another throughout prolonged silence until Andrew Bunker’s Soames finally asks ‘Did you ring my lady?’

Yet it’s only when Hugh delivers a vivid wake-up call message about the dangers of matrimonial incompatibility do you get a real sense at the playwright’s intention with this piece.

Comically honest and curiously compelling, The Charity that Began at Home is all that’s needed tap the spirit of giving that exists in each of us.

Review by Steven Berketo

THE CHARITY THAT BEGAN AT HOME by St. John Hankin Apr. 25 – Oct. 11, 2014 COURT HOUSE THEATRE, Niagara-on-the Lake TICKETS $ 24.00 – $113.00 1-800-511-SHAW www.shawfest.com CAST Neil Barclay, Donna Belleville, Andrew Bunker, Julia Course, Sharry Flett, Darcy Gerhart, Martin Happer, Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, Jim Mezon, Laurie Paton, Fiona Reid, Graeme Somerville, Edmund Stapleton DIRECTOR Christopher Newton SET AND COSTUMES William Schmuck LIGHTING Louise Guinand

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