Stewart Lemoine’s pulp fiction for the stage – now in book form!
New York in the ’50s, Switzerland in the ’30s, Monte Carlo in the ’20s, tea with a vaudeville star, champagne with the ambassador, a conga line at a wedding, a murder mystery at the symphony, a discussion of green peppers during a cocktail party – don’t ever accuse Stewart Lemoine of being stuck in the here and now.
His pulp fiction for the stage is filled with fanciful tales populated by all manner of colourful characters saying the most witty, clever things – all of them more or less played by the same set of actors, staged in the same theatre and guaranteed to draw the same audience in the same town. It’s amazing. Lemoine is unique among Canadian playwrights. Neither moral agenda nor political message here, this is pure escapism – to places long, long ago or far, far away. Or both.
“We just like the clothing,” Lemoine jokes – and the secret is out concerning the obvious question: Where DO you get all your ideas?
Lemoine himself, who doesn’t know anything different since this is all he’s ever done, says he’s been lucky: “I get to write as many shows as I want and people always show up.”
He speaks from experience. He and his Teatro la Quindicina theatre troupe have mounted about 60 of these things, if you can believe it – developing a style part Merchant & Ivory, part Noel Coward and part Seinfeld, the best show about nothing ever made. Lemoine’s plays could be set anywhere, be about anything. The dialogue and characters are really the important things.
“I really like writing dialogue,” he says. “I look at novels and I think I could never do this. I don’t have a natural inclination to describe things the way a novelist does. I leave that to the designer when we do a play.”
Yet another of these “Lemoines” opens July 7 at the Varscona Theatre, this one also starring the Lemoine Regulars Jeff Haslam and Davina Stewart. It’s called The Scent of Compulsion, a spy spoof involving a mercenary (Haslam) and an unscrupulous cosmetics baroness (Stewart). Hilarity and outrageous fashion ensue. And oh, yes, it’s set in the ‘70s.
On sale at the show will be Lemoine’s third book with NeWest Press: Witness to a Conga and Other Plays, named for his recently Sterling award-winning play. The book will be available through Amazon on Aug. 1. You don’t need to have seen the works in question to get something out of what are essentially reprints of the original scripts, but it helps. It helps to have at least seen one Lemoine. A fringe benefit, so to speak, is that “once a play is published and out there, it’s possible that somebody might read it and want to produce it.”
It happens every now and then. Proving that Lemoine isn’t just an Edmonton anomaly, his plays generally go over pretty well anywhere they’re produced, he says – including in New York City, whose Fringe festival is so small compared to Edmonton’s “because we don’t have Broadway to distract us.”
What we have instead is an active WAAAAY-off-Broadway Old Strathcona theatre scene that erupts every summer into one of the largest Fringe festivals in the world. Until then, The Scent of Complusion opens Thursday, July 7 at the Varscona Theatre and plays through July 23. Click here for details.