SMALL MOMENT- Jordan Bartsch

‘Dark, gothic, romantic comedy’ opens at RDC

Red Deer College theatre studies opens a stellar new season by tapping into ‘gothic, romantic and dark’ comedy.

Unity (1918) opens Oct. 7 in Studio A at RDC.

Other shows run Oct. 8-9 and 13-16, with curtain at 7:30 p.m. There are also matinees Oct. 9 and 16.

Directed by Tanya Ryga and written by Kevin Kerr, Unity (1918) is set in the town of Unity, Saskatchewan in the fall of 1918.

These are seriously tense times as townsfolk long for the end of the First World War and also await the dreaded Spanish Flu.

Described as a ‘gothic, romantic, and dark comedy’, the drama unfolds via the diverse nature of the characters.

“The characters are definitely what bring the humour and the life to it, but also the writer is very funny. We keep finding these bittersweet notions,” explains Ryga.

“There will be these very poignant moments when something just comes crashing through that is just hysterically funny. Or just odd. So it never gets sentimental, and it never stops. It’s just go, go, go.”

The story is told by young Beatrice through her interactions with a host of colourful characters. She chronicles the terror of the times but also the hopes and desires of youth.

“Ultimately, it’s about this one girl’s desire to love and be loved. That’s at the core of the story,” explains Ryga. “I was also impressed that a little town in Saskatchewan is the focus, and a little person inside that town is the focus as well. But the backdrop it’s set against is world-wide. The optic is huge and meaningful.”

There is also Mary who longs for her soldier lover who is at war in Europe. And Beatrice’s sister Sissy threatens the ‘end of days’ which she expects in 1918.

She declares herself and her farmhand boyfriend Michael the last man and woman on earth – a sort of Adam in Eve in reverse.

“As everyone else is sort of fortifying themselves, her attitude if one of ‘bring it on’.”

The town’s undertaker, a 15-year-old named Sunna, struggles to keep one step ahead of death. “She’s pretty shunned by the community, even though there was never a time when they needed her more. So while they need her, they also resent her because she’s making a little bit of a profit off of the deaths.”

Meanwhile, Doris and Rose, the telegraph and telephone operators, relay information from the world to the quarantined town.

They also dish out plenty of unrequested advice.

“I call them the empresses of information.”

Then there’s Stan, the incompetent farmer whose wife died while giving birth. He can’t understand why none of the young ladies will marry him. Finally, along comes Hart, a blind soldier from Halifax.

And the horrendous plague.

Townsfolk start to replace romantic notions of war with deadly realities of the flu. And its coming is unstoppable.

“It’s in Halifax, then in Montreal, then it hits Regina and then Rosetown – the next town away.” Quarantine is applied.

All the turbulence of life swirls around her, Beatrice tries to make sense of the loss of innocence and grief. And the complexities of life and relationships in general.

“It’s gentle, and I like its gentleness,” says Ryga of the heart of the production. “It scares me a bit, but it’s got this quality about it.”

For tickets, call 403-340-4455, visit www.ticketmaster.ca or www.rdc.ab.ca/showtime.

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