Rosebud Theatre’s The Kite: comedic and touching
by Laureen F. Guenther
The Kite, a comedy by Canadian playwright W.O. Mitchell, opened at Rosebud Theatre June 7 and plays until August 31.
Daddy Sherry (played by Rosebud Theatre resident company member Nathan Schmidt) is about to turn 117 years old, or so everyone says. Daddy Sherry himself isn’t sure of his exact age, but he’s confident he’s the oldest man in the world. His many-greats granddaughter Helen (Heather Pattengale) tries to manage his unmanageable behaviour and curtail his influence on her impressionable young son Keith (Rebbekah Ogden).
Next Thursday, it’s Daddy’s birthday. The whole town is planning a party and the CBC is sending journalists out for an interview, but Daddy Sherry isn’t playing along. Maybe he won’t even live until Thursday, just to spite them all.
Daddy says what he likes, does what he likes, and has fun driving everyone else to distraction while he does it. Nathan Schmidt has a just-right knack for playing this grumpy, old man.
The cast also includes Paul Muir as the doctor and Helen’s love interest. Mike Thiessen is the barber and undertaker. They respond to Daddy Sherry with the mystified frustration we’d all feel when trying to placate someone so obstreperous.
Rosebud School of the Arts students Emily Anne Salkeld and Anja Darien are the CBC journalists who seek an ordinary 100-year-old birthday interview and are delightedly surprised by Daddy Sherry’s out-of-the-ordinary shenanigans.
Robyn Ayles designed the 1970s-era costumes, which add their own character to the show, and enhance the entertainment value for those who remember that era. Ayles also designed the set, using print screens to evoke the images and feelings of Alberta’s wide-open prairies, where Daddy Sherry spent his decades roaming the range and hunting buffalo and where he’s spending his final years.
The Kite is ridiculously funny, from its very first moments to the final gasps of dismay – and then delight. Our audience laughed all the way through.
But about halfway through, even as I was laughing, I also felt a tenderness enter this story. That’s when we realize that, despite Daddy Sherry’s aggravating ways, the exasperated Helen really does love that “old crooked willow”. At that moment, we start to have hope for this family, for we’ve become fond of the old rascal too.
We want Helen to truly care for him because we know Daddy Sherry could be one of our own elderly loved ones, struggling to maintain significance and independence and purpose even while their bodies and minds are failing, and they see all their friends passing on.
But we have more reasons to want Helen and Keith to care about Daddy Sherry, because he’s more than one of our beloved elderly people. I think Daddy Sherry is also us.
We can’t help but admire his audacity to say and do what we often think, but don’t have the courage to admit. We watch his fighting for value and meaning and control, and we know that’s what we want too, even if we’re nowhere near 117 years old. And when we do get old, even if we become as cantankerous as Daddy Sherry, we hope there’ll be a many-greats someone to persist in loving us, just as Helen and Keith are determined to keep loving him.
The Kite plays in Rosebud Theatre’s Opera House until August 31. Tickets, which include a meal, can be purchased at 1-800-267-7553 or rosebudtheatre.com. Rosebud Theatre offers free tickets to any guests, 100 years old or older.