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'The Fiancee' a light-hearted gift to Edmonton theatre audiences

Debut comedy from local playwright Holly Lewis inspired by her comedic idol, Lucille Ball.
Holly Lewis
New comedic work by playwright Holly Lewis opens at The Citadel Theatre Nov. 6. Photo submitted.

Edmonton theatre audiences need a gift right about now: that's what playwright Holly Lewis figures and she's answering the call with her debut offering for the Citadel Theatre; the wacky new comedy The Fiancée (running November 6-28).

If you fancy a few slamming doors and romantic misunderstandings in the tradition of British farce, this is the ticket. There are six actors, seven characters (double duty for local favourite Sheldon Elter) and seven doors that bring the hilarious story to life, one Lewis says was influenced by her comedic hero, Lucille Ball.

"I always say if there's a banana peel around, I'll be the one to find it," laughed Lewis, who was an actor before she took up the pen and paper.

The Fiancée finds Lucy and her sister Rose in danger of eviction when their landlady comes to collect the rent. It turns out that just before the start of World War II, Lucy got engaged to three men because she believes "No one should have to go overseas without someone to come home to." When she finds out they are all coming home on the same night, she has one night to lose the fiancés if she wants to keep the apartment. 

"It's a scramble of mistaken identities and mixed messages: things can get crazy out of control, but the play comes from the heart. And this cast understands comic timing," said Lewis in the frenzied week before show opening. "These are my hardest working days, tweaking things before we open."

The Fiancée is Lewis' first solo show, and follows her two acclaimed international collaborations: Ubuntu--The Cape Town Project and Return: The Sarajevo Project. Lewis took the solo plunge with The Fiancée, a project that took about seven years from percolating idea to first draft.

"As we went along, I had wine-and-cheese readings with actor friends in my living room. I needed proof the script was funny," she said.

Family has been a help too, including husband Daryl Cloran (the Citadel's artistic director who also directs The Fiancée (and is an accomplished writer/adapter of works in his own right), and the couple's two sons Liam, 13, and nine-year-old Jack. 

"Liam came to me the other day and said 'Mom, I'm so glad you're writing a play.' I thought it was because he was proud of my achievement, but when I asked, he said 'no, it's because you're happy.'

Happy and happily stressed, she adds. Not only was Lewis finishing the script during the pandemic, she was also home schooling the boys. (And getting them to read the script aloud with her on an occasional recess break, she laughs). And now, five drafts later and final cast rehearsals preparing to bring her story in front of an audience, it's a heady mix of excitement and anticipation.

"I one hundred per cent cannot wait for opening," Lewis said. "And to top it off, my parents are coming from Toronto for opening night. I haven't seen them for two years, since before the pandemic started. It's going to be unforgettable."

The Fiancée features a slate of Citadel favourites, including Helen Belay as Lucy, Patricia Cerra as Rose and Lora Brovold as the landlady. Watch for Sheldon Elter, Farren Timoteo and Tenaj Williams rounding out the cast as Lucy's three fiancés.

Tickets are available at 780-425-1820 or through the online box office at citadeltheatre.com.