Uncle Oscar stages comeback!

Elissa Barnard talks with Zuppa on the remounting of Uncle Oscar’s Experiment. Read “Uncle Oscar stages comeback” below or at The Chronicle Herald

Zuppa Theatre Co. enjoyed doing Uncle Oscar’s Experiment so much 10 years ago, it’s doing it again.

“Every once in a while you feel you nail it,” says Alex McLean, director and member of the Halifax ensemble theatre company. “It felt to all of us when we made it that the different elements we like to work with came together in a really unique way.”

Those elements are music, a highly physical performance style and “a degree of clownishness.”

“This is a show we toured a little bit in 2003, but we always felt it could have more of a life,” McLean says. “It’s a very fun show and we’ve come out of a series of shows that are more melancholy. This one is quite playful.”

The 10th anniversary remount, kicking off Zuppa’s 16th season, is at Fort Massey United Church, 5503 Tobin St., Halifax, from Thursday to Oct. 20 at 8 p.m., with a preview Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Inspired by the melodramatic and gory Grand Guignol theatre tradition, Uncle Oscar’s Experiment is a “musical fantasia on the borderland between earth and eternity.”

The play is about Felicity Luckless, who is considered cursed because she brings death wherever she goes. She is placed in the care of a medical maverick, Dr. Oscar Smitthison-Burke, and his strange manservant Gregory.

The doctor is convinced there is a cure but things start breaking, bloody procedures are performed, angels start hovering and Gregory is forced to choose between his master and his new love.

Stewart Legere is taking on the role of Uncle Oscar, originally played by Simon Henderson when the show was commissioned by Two Planks and a Passion Theatre as Zuppa’s Fifth Annual Theatre Extravaganza in August 2003 on the Tall Ship’s Quay in Halifax.

“When we first made it, we had virtually no budget,” says McLean. This 10th anniversary edition features a full set by Katherine Jenkins-Ryan, who designed the set for Zuppa’s April show, The Attaining Gigantick Dimensions; lighting design by Jessica Lewis and costume design by Leesa Hamilton with Cathleen MacCormack.

“We’ve been able to up the design elements,” McLean says.

The hour-long play is at Fort Massey United Church “because the show is in some ways about faith and different kinds of faith and real certainty on one hand and the unknown on the other,” says McLean.

Uncle Oscar’s Experiment, written by Zuppa Theatre Co. with Peter McBain, also stars Kiersten Tough, Ben Stone and Susan Leblanc-Crawford. There is a live musical score performed by the cast with musical accompaniment from composer Jason Michael MacIsaac and arranger David Christensen.

Next up for Zuppa is a work in progress with Halifax-raised, New York-based chef Daniel Burns for Eastern Front Theatre’s Stages Theatre Festival being held in partnership with the Magnetic North Theatre Festival in Halifax June 18-28, 2014.