Big Maggie brings big laughs

For what is ultimately a fairly sad story about family, loss and struggle, the cast of the Rivercity Players’ current production, Big Maggie, had a full theatre laughing out loud Sunday afternoon during opening weekend.

The language is very colourful and the personalities are very strong in this John B. Keane play set in rural Ireland in the 1960s.

Big Maggie is the story of Maggie Polpin and her family.

Newly widowed, Maggie grasps the opportunity to take control of her life and future fortunes. She is sure she knows what’s best for herself and her four adult children and she’s willing to do — and say — whatever it takes.

This well-written story looks at the complicated relationships between mothers and their children, between men and women and at the way we treat each other.

The entire cast does a fantastic job of bringing this play to life, and there is a lot of funny dialogue and great physical touches and facial expressions that really add to the characters.

The dialogue and characters are real strengths in this play. A simple set — most of the play is set in the Poplins’ shop — keeps the focus on the characters and their interactions, which works really well in this play.

Big Maggie is a force and Denise Comeau-Darnell does a great job of bringing her big personality to life.

Colin McPherson is great as lovelorn Byrne, who makes headstones at the graveyard, and Joel Loeve does slimy well as the “playboy” Teddy.

Julie Rigby is very lovable as Gert, Maggie’s poor daughter whose spirit gets crushed by her mother often.

Christina Peterson shows great range as daughter Katie, who gets beaten by her mother for sleeping with a married man but still manages to keep her spirit and her sharp tongue.

Patrick Baird and Aron Welsh play Maggie’s sons. Welsh has a fiery temper as Mick, and he leaves the family farm soon after his father’s death, getting far away from his mother when he realizes he’s not getting his share of the farm that his father promised him. Baird does a great job as the hapless Maurice, who wants to marry Mary Madden but has to wait while his mother considers the idea.

Lori Caron and Mary Bedard-Green are very funny as gossipy townswomen, while Cielo Richardson shows some spunk as young Mary Madden when she stands up to Maggie, and Sandi Loomans has a powerful presence as tough Mrs. Madden.

Big Maggie continues this week, April 28, 29 and 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Rivercity Stage at 1080 Hemlock St.

Big Maggie, directed by Margaret Keane, is the Rivercity Players’ entry for the North Island Zone Festival in May. The Rivercity Players are hosting the festival this year, which takes place May 15-20 at the Rivercity Stage.

For information about tickets to Big Mggie and to the North Island Zone Drama Festival, visit rivercityplayers.ca.