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Playgoers examines advertising and politics in Sean Devine’s Daisy

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Don’t miss Playgoers of Lethbridge’s production of Canadian playwright Sean Devine’s 2017  drama “Daisy.”
It only runs two more days, tonight and tomorrow, Feb. 21 and 22 in the Sterndale Bennett Theatre downtown.

Karl Airey and Allen Gibson rehearse Daisy. Photo by Richard AmeryIt’s weird just watching a play rather than being in  it, but I was very impressed with this technological masterpiece and the cast, most of whom are new to Playgoers of Lethbridge, but not to the stage.

 The play, based around the first political attack ad , “Daisy,” which ran once during the 1964 Johnson Goldwater presidential election but changed the face of political advertising forever. It shows the more things change, the more they stay the same as we go into another presidential election.

 The new play explores the fear of nuclear war overwhelming the U.S.A during the ’60s and perfectly captures the era.
 It is about the advertising agency behind the ad and the people involved with the ad.

 Director Rita Peterson beautifully and subtly helps the cast capture the quirks of their characters. 

Cole Fetting, who plays the neurotic and paranoid Aaron Ehrlich, provides the comic relief, standing between the battles between the agency’s moral conscience of Louise Brown, played beautifully by Megan Fennel and the ambitious Sid Myers, played by Trevor Loman. All three are familiar faces from The Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society’s production of Macbeth.

 But the scene of the era is set  before the show, as vintage cartoons and commercials from the ’50s and ’60s are displayed while the audience waits for the show to begin.

 It is a really tech heavy show — more than Playgoers of Lethbridge usually does.
 Luc Toupin handles the sound beautifully, which is a must as the play is as much about how sound affects viewers as it is about the characters at the agency and the paranoia of the ’60s.

The set is also a lot simpler than usual, with the screen dominating centre stage and a few movable  set pieces depicting the ad agency office,Clifford Lewis’s office at the White house and sound technician Tony Schwartz’s  studio.

Karl Airey is brilliant as the agoraphobic sound technician Tony Schwartz. He shows vulnerability as well as a nasty side by the end. He provides some of the comic relief as well in a very serious play, which not only explores fear in the nuclear era, but also touches on women’s rights and civil rights issues as well as the characters’ personal neuroses.

Newcomer  Victor Nwabuogor kills it as  Johnson’s cut throat advisor, responsible for hiring the agency and  putting them in the middle of a powerful ethical dilemma as they try to get Johnson elected while completely destroying loose cannon Barry Goldwater, while still maintaining their moral compass.

Trevor Loman, Megan Fennell and Cole Fetting rehearse Daisy. Photo by Richard Amery
 I really enjoyed Megan Fennel as the agency’s conscience and enjoyed her conflict as the closet Republican working on the democratic campaign as she debates whether the Daisy ad goes too far, bemoaning “this isn’t the Republican party I grew up with.” She was a hit as one of the witches in Macbeth and will also be in Hatrix’s  May 26-30 drama “Wait until Dark” which also stars Karl Airey.

 I love watching these new actors develop. I hope to see Nwabuogor back on stage as well.
 It’s always a pleasure to see Fetting perform. And I enjoyed Loman in Daisy as much as I did in his two previous Shakespeare  production Titus Andronicus and MacBeth
 Daisy is also a  welcome return to  the Playgoers stage for Allen Gibson, playing a more strait-laced character of  agency boss Bill Bernbach.

 Don’t miss Daisy, it will make you think, laugh and maybe even cry  as it explores  issues that are becoming all the more prevalent and predominant today.

The play runs at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 20 and 21. But being there at 7 p.m. sharp when doors open is worth it to see these old commercials.
 Tickets are $23 in advance, $26 at the door.

— by Richard Amery, L.A. beat Editor
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