Gail Martin, Independent Editor
The Melville Boys is a poignant, heart-wrenching tale of discovery, the meaning of life, and how to make the most of every moment.
It is also a story filled with laughter — which is a little surprising, given its dark subject matter.
The Melville Boys is a classic by Canadian playwright Norm Foster, which explores how two close brothers deal with the tragedy of a terminal illness.
It’s fare that is a little more serious than usual for Drayton Entertainment, yet it beautifully portrays the struggle all of us will one day face.
Richard Quesnel stars as Lee Melville, a 39-year-old father of two and foreman at a plastics factory that has been diagnosed with malignant melanoma. He is the responsible one, the one who has always cared for those who need him — even to the point of giving up his dream of university to support his family, after his father’s death.
Brad Austin, recently seen in Bedtime Stories, is Lee’s younger brother Owen, a man who has drifted through much of his life without a great deal of direction, and who has always relied on his older brother to help him out of jams.
The play takes place at the family cottage, where the two Melville boys decide to have a weekend retreat, something they haven’t done together for 10 years.
Along the way, neighbouring cottagers Mary (played by Anita La Selva) and Loretta (Shauna Black) drop by for a quick visit that ends up taking the whole weekend.
Through it all, Foster’s play touches on the preciousness of life, and the difficulties even close family members can have in talking about how they really feel.
In the first act of the play, we see Owen going out of his way to invite Mary and Loretta into their lives, while he continually avoids Lee’s attempts to talk about his impending death.
In the second act, however, the raw emotions both men are dealing with come out into the open — making for some deeply compelling drama for the audience.
All actors in this thought-provoking play are stellar, working well alongside each other, both in the many humourous moments that come before the heartbreaking ones.
Quesnel and Austin, however, are incredible as two brothers who love each other deeply, and have no way of coping through a tragedy they never saw coming.
Quesnel is moving as a man who feels completely alone, as no one will talk to him about what he is going through, not even his wife, until he meets Mary, a near-stranger that he is able to confide.
Austin, as a man who is grasping at straws, shows great vulnerability and depth as he confides his fear of living without a brother who always kept him safe.
For audiences, it is tough, heartbreaking and beautiful to watch.
The Melville Boys is not a play in which you can forget your troubles and escape, but it is a play that will make you think — and, perhaps, make some better choices in how you live your own life.
It’s raw, and it’s real, and it’s funny. Just like life itself.
The Melville Boys plays eight shows a week from now until Sept. 1. For ticket information, visit www.draytonfestivaltheatre.com, or call 1-855-372-9866.