Review: When I'm 64 triumphant for rookie Canadian playwright Special

Posted Mar 29, 2015 by Mark J. Allan
Motivated to create more roles for elderly women, rookie Canadian playwright Steve Hill has crafted a winner populated by six believable characters.
First-time Canadian playright Steve Hill has captured the essence of the beautiful Comox Valley (bac...
First-time Canadian playright Steve Hill has captured the essence of the beautiful Comox Valley (background) while creating six believable, sympathetic roles for elderly women.
Terry Penney
When I’m 64 by rookie playwright Steve Hill is an inspirational production populated by believable, sympathetic elderly female characters.
Inspired by the offbeat Paul McCartney song of the same name from the Beatles’ legendary Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, the play reveals some truly lonely hearts.
Some have lost spouses to the Grim Reaper; others are considering cutting the cord that attaches them to unfaithful husbands.
Many emotions, including anger, loneliness, loss, sadness, courage, fear, pride and forgiveness, were apparent March 28 in the first of two almost-sold-out performances at the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay, B.C., Canada.
After local Comox Valley music icon Sue Medley opens with a plaintive solo acoustic version of her song "These Are the Days," Lynn Hodge follows with a strong statement as breast cancer survivor and dragon boat paddler Trish.
Recounting how she overcame her fear of the water to join a dragon boat rowing team with fellow cancer survivors, Trish expresses fear, courage, defiance and anger.
The anger arises prophetically from so many members of the dragon boat team dying — six in one terrible year.
Diminutive Elaine Hanson, as self-made woman MJ, taps into her dance and choreographic background for some wonderful physicality.
Kate Fairley, as octogenarian Joan, delivers her lines effectively — no small feat when you consider that Fairley herself is 83, when memory can be unreliable.
Joan has a lifetime of memories she wants to share — if she could only get her emotionally unavailable Me Generation daughter to listen. Joan does her best by bringing to life a faded black and white photo of two long-dead European farmers whose kindness partially offsets a Nazi atrocity.
As Sonja, Sharon Pridham captures the terror elderly people feel when trying online dating.
Louise Salter’s Alexandra seems to have everything a woman could want — three lovely daughters and a comfortable life supplied by her real-estate wheeler-dealer husband.
Her appreciation of fine wine and food is tempered by a difficult decision she has to make regarding her spouse.
Salter has a rare gift of eliciting laughter without saying a word.
As Streetwoman, Patricia Foster appears sporadically and speaks sparingly. Some personal tragedy has shunted her onto the fringes of society, but she is nonetheless connected to the other women.
In a striking technique, Hill rarely has more than one character in the spotlight at a time, allowing audiences to focus on one soliloquy at a time.
Video occasionally augments the plotline and character development, although it sometimes distracts attention from what the characters are saying.
An active soundscape helps to conjure memories described by cast members.
Besides creating vibrant and believable elderly female roles, Hill captures the spirit of a remarkable place known to the native K’ómoks people as the Land of Plenty.
When I’m 64 will always play better to Comox Valley audiences due to the many local references, but the themes that reverberate through the cast’s fine performances are universal.
His years as chaplain, counselling people in life-or-death circumstances at the local St. Joseph’s General Hospital, have given Hill access to powerful, genuine, often-painful emotions.
His perceptiveness, compassion, writing skill and heartfelt desire to create more stage roles for elderly women did the rest.
When I’m 64 is a triumph that would make McCartney proud.
Sharon Pridham (left) portrays Sonja  a widow who tries Internet dating  in When I m 64 by first-tim...
Sharon Pridham (left) portrays Sonja, a widow who tries Internet dating, in When I'm 64 by first-time playwright Steve Hill. Louise Salter plays Alexandra, a successful executive and wine connoisseur with a huge decision to make.
Terry Penney