CANADA JACKS written and directed by Xavier MacDonald (Simple Truth Theatre). Runs until December 18. See Continuing Theatre listings for details. Rating: NN
The American writer Lee Larson once gave his book The Province Of Calgary to an Ontario bookstore clerk. The book wound up in the clerk's john. Maybe it should have stayed there.
Instead, we must deal with the consequences of writer/director Xavier MacDonald 's frontier spirit. He decided to take Larson's story from the clerk's throne room to the rehearsal hall.
Canada Jacks stars Richard Beaune as Jack, the owner of a small Detroit bar cum shrine to all things Canuck. Larson's anecdotes (lifted chapter and verse from his book) are strung together by a thin storyline involving Wal-Mart and the sale of Jack's bar, thereby introducing some pat, half-hearted sentiment about American cultural imperialism. Every 20 minutes, Jack gets a phone call from the landlord so he can advance the plot by discussing the bar's fate.
The rest of the show cobbles together cheap gags about Canadians and silly statements about Americans.
As a Maritimer and someone who's guilty of laying on the accent to please the crowds, I understand the appeal of playing to type. In fact, if Canada Jacks were a one-act, and if Beaune's pleasant face weren't constantly in shadow from the poorly hung lighting plot, the whole thing might work.
I almost feel sorry for Beaune, whose delivery is charming. I wonder if he lost a bet.
If it's a love song to the Canadian way that you're after one that doesn't cast us all as a bunch of hockey hosers with a beer in one hand and a doughnut in the other find yourself a copy of one of Dan Needles' Walt Wingfield scripts, or reacquaint yourself with Bob and Doug McKenzie. Listen to Stuart McLean if you must. But give Canada Jacks a wide berth.