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A Good Hand!

Tempting Providence
Neptune Studio Theatre, Halifax
April 26, 2012

A moment of silence spoke volumes during last night’s premier of Robert Chafe’s Tempting Providence at Neptune Studio Theatre in Halifax.

Courting newly-transplanted nurse Myra Grimsley, the young Angus Bennett comically declares “This is where a person comes to break a few habits, and make a few new ones…”

In the ensuing stillness, Grimsley - now thousands of miles from her native England – gazes out over the audience, acknowledging her fate. As the reality of being swept upon the shores of a distant Newfoundland outport sinks in, a steely resolve takes root, and the caretaker embraces her destiny with whole heart.

The post-World War I culture-clash tells only one side of the story, however, as the character and dialogue-driven performance explores deeper themes of love, loyalty, integrity, identity, humility and courage.

“Well, one must always be of some good use,” shares Grimsley aloud, setting the tempo and tone for the two-act, 95 minute production.

Quickly paced and quick-witted, the work’s narrative arc and the regional appeal are both brought to life by the play’s quartet of thespians; in particular, Deidre Gillard-Rowlings is outstanding and convincing as the strong-willed Grimsley, and Darryl Hopkins was the envy of every woman in the hall as her devout husband-to-be Bennett.

The sparse stage showcased a few simple props; a table and four chairs were seamlessly shuffled around, and a sheer-white tablecloth was cleverly twisted and turned for an array of usage – not unlike Grimsley herself.

In the play’s waning moments, an aging Angus holds his wife close and whispers “Ah, yer’ a good hand girl…a good hand.” In turn, as the stage lights dimmed, the audience responded in kind with a standing ovation. ~ Stephen Patrick Clare

Tempting Providence until May 6 at Neptune Studio Theatre, Halifax

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