Sometimes TV gets it right. Corner Gas , the new high-octane sitcom on CTV, is a terrific vehicle for the talents of stand-up Brent Butt and some local stage actors. Butt plays Brent LeRoy, the drolly humorous owner of the only gas station in Dog River, Saskatchewan (population 450). As in his live comedy act, his jokes don't hit you over the head - they creep up on you. Call it Prairie Exposure. Co-creator/writer/producer Butt has surrounded himself with a terrific cast. There's his hapless mechanic bud, Hank ( Fred Ewanuick ), his retail assistant, Wanda ( Nancy Robertson ), his bickering parents ( Eric Peterson and Janet Wright ) and a pair of bumbling cops ( Tara Spencer-Nairn and Lorne Cardinal ). Pretty much everyone hangs out at the coffee shop newly renovated by Lacey ( Gabrielle Miller ), who's moved from Toronto to take over her late aunt's business.
The show's not really about anything except a bunch of simple, unpretentious prairie folks passing the time. In the second episode, which airs tonight (Thursday, January 29), Kids in the Hall vet Kevin MacDonald guest stars as a Revenue Canada guy who's looking for the gas station's receipts, prompting hilarious bits about whether you call him "the tax man" or "a tax man" and some swift flashbacks. Meanwhile, Cardinal and Spencer-Nairn play out a gut-bustingly funny subplot about police corruption à la Serpico and coffee.
With a lineup of guests that includes comics Mike Wilmot , Peter Oldring and cameos by CTV vets like Pamela Wallin , Colin Mochrie and the Canadian Idol judges, Corner Gas looks like a hit. Fill 'er up with more episodes, please.
Sy in Cahoots
Beginning in July, playwright/actor/director Jovanni Sy sits in the artistic director's chair at Cahoots Theatre , and he's already planning the 2004-05 season. Sy brings lots of experience to the role, as associate artistic director at Cahoots this season and associate producer for Factory's CrossCurrents, a new-play festival for writers of colour. What better person to run a company that, since 1986, has focused on developing and presenting Canadian works that reflect our cultural diversity?
You'll never know how much theatre is produced at the University of Toronto unless you catch some of its annual drama festival. This year's event - a good chance to see the work of a new generation of theatre artists - runs through Saturday (January 31), and features 10 productions presented by several university groups. You might recognize some of the young playwrights' names - Anthony Furey and Natasha Mytnowych have worked at the Paprika Festival, the Fringe and SummerWorks. Adjudicator for this year's fest is Ann-Marie Kerr , a fine and sensitive theatre artist who's been associated with Theatre Smith-Gilmour and the Soulpepper Mentorship program. See listings for details. email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org