– Celia Nicholls

There’s an Edmonton playwright who brings nostalgic glamour to his Alberta work. One of the best things about the work of Stewart Lemoine is the way it frequently situates Albertan experiences in terms of highly glamorous genres like the central European operetta or Hollywood screwball comedy. It pays homage to the kinds of stories a weird prairie kid’s escapist daydreams are made of. The irony is that Lemoine always manages to make audiences appreciate new and quirky things about home.

Lemoine’s most recent show, performed by his stock company Teatro La Quindicina, at the Varscona Theatre, closed out the 2018 season in it’s typically glamorous style. Though Skirts on Fire lacks the same unique local angle, the top-notch local talent is evident in the production.

Skirts on Fire is set in the world of literary publishing in 1950s New York. It centres on the mayhem unleashed when the rich playboy Alton Doane (Andrew Macdonald-Smith) pulls a literary hoax on Evangeline Gold (Andrea House), the owner of a popular ladies magazine, by pretending to be the author of a famous and much-loved short story, when in fact the author is not real. But this doesn’t stop Doane from trying to keep up the act with help from ex-classmate and former writer Porter Lawrence (Ron Pederson) to take on the role of the author when romance blossoms between himself and Mrs. Gold.

Hijinks ensue and everything comes out as sparkling and thoroughly enjoyable as a glass of champagne. It’s perhaps not often that one can say with complete confidence that something homegrown is truly world class. Lemoine’s imagination, and his friends at Teatro, bring it all to life and really are a local treasure. Comedy very rarely gets its due, but if you’re looking for some of the sharpest and most entertaining writing around, any one of Teatro’s shows is just the ticket.

Image courtesy of Varscona Theatre