Bed & Breakfast: Don’t spend the night

The Arts Club is presenting Bed & Breakfast at the Granville Island Stage.

Five shades of grey: Mark Crawford and Paul Dunn wear Dana Osborne’s costumes on her set. (Photo by Moonrider Productions)

The title is a spoiler.

The show is called Bed & Breakfast for Christ’s sake so, when gay couple Brett and Drew spend their first half hour onstage together dithering about whether or they’re going to open a B&B, I felt like screaming, “Haven’t you read the program? Haven’t you seen the posters? Get on with it!”

And that’s not the only predictable plot point in Mark Crawford’s script. When Brett and Drew give up Toronto life and move to the small town where Brett used to spend summers with his Aunt Maggie, who left her house to him, they encounter some homophobia. Just before intermission, Brett wails, “I tried not hiding and this is what happens!” But Drew’s no quitter. “We can’t let them win!” he declares. Do things turn out happily? What do you think? This is a comedy. It’s at the Arts Club. Of course things turn out happily—which makes it even more annoying when the couple suffers a second crisis in Act 2. Maybe they really should move back to Toronto…Oh shut up!

There are one or two minor surprises along the way, but the biological parentage of an adopted child, which is dangled before us as if it were a mystery, is not among them.

I think part of the reason that this show bores me and bugs me so much is that it’s the same old story about poor, oppressed gay men struggling to maintain their dignity. Don’t get me wrong: as a gay man, I’m very clear that homophobia is a dangerous, deadly force that’s not going away any time soon. But the terms of Bed & Breakfast—the compulsive banter, the familial disapproval, the defiant expressions of affection, the teary triumph, the middle-class whiteness—are so overworked that they’re threadbare.

And I don’t even know that the core story of Bed & Breakfast is supposed to be. There’s no clear antagonist, just a vague sense that somebody is hostile to the town’s newest queer couple, but that hostility remains anonymous and unexplored, and it doesn’t have any direct impact on Brett and Drew’s concrete goal, which is to establish a business.

The set could not be more dull. Dana Osborne gives us a grey wall, a grey bed, and some grey steps. When Brett goes crazy with Christmas decorations, we get some dim red and yellow lights. Yeah, really, really crazy.

Playwright Crawford and Paul Dunn play Brett and Drew respectively as well as all of the other characters and their acting is energetic, but most of their female characters behave a lot more like drag queens than women. (Most women don’t really wiggle and squawk. We do.)

Interestingly, the most affecting characterizations are of a couple of teenage guys. Cody (played by Dunn) is sweetly monosyllabic and Dustin (played with eccentric abandon by Crawford) is as gay as baking day. These two—especially Dustin—are far more charming than anything else in the show. They are also far more original.

BED & BREAKFAST By Mark Crawford. Directed by Ashlie Corcoran. Co-produced by the Arts Club Theatre and the Great Canadian Theatre Company. At the Arts Club’s Granville Island Stage on Tuesday, April 16. Continues until May 4. Tickets.


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About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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