The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre closes its season with family-centred play The Cottage

By Sarah Vandale

In Manitoba, going to the cottage is a tradition for many families. The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s current show, The Cottage, highlights what families love most about cottage life, along with the drama that sometimes comes with it.

When Randall (portrayed by Jennifer Lyon), Bennet (Chris Sigurdson) and Matty’s (Tom Keenan) ailing mother (Jane Burpee) tells them they must decide what will happen to the cottage when she dies, a weekend of awkward conversations, drama, and comedy ensues.

The Cottage is Manitoba author Jake MacDonald’s playwriting debut. With a duck-shaped phone, kids who are around but never actually seen, and a sofa bed you have to hit just the right way to open, MacDonald perfectly captures life at the lake.

The John Hirsch Mainstage transforms into Manitoba’s wilderness, complete with cricket and loon sound effects and prop trees and rocks./DYLAN HEWLETT

The pacing of the show moves quick enough to keep the audience engaged and slows down in between scenes as the set (designed by Brian Perchaluk) rotates. The audience gave a round of applause the first time the set rotated to show the interior of the cottage.

While the entire eight-person cast was strong, Jane Burpee and Cory Wojcik delivered stand-out performances.

Burpee plays Eleanor, the heartwarming, yet tough-loving mother. Burpee carries the role of the glue holding the family together well, and received a laugh from the audience in nearly every scene she was in.

Wojcik plays Brucester, the rowdy neighbour who spends his time at the lake drinking beer and listening to rock and roll way too loud.

Jane Burpee (left) and Jennifer Lyon (right) portray mother and daughter, Eleanor and Randall, who share special memories of their time at the family cottage./DYLAN HEWLETT

Directed by Robb Paterson, The Cottage does a great job of creating an intimate look inside the family’s cottage. MacDonald represents the connection the fictional family has formed at the lake by always keeping a chair set aside for their late father and making a toast “to the captain” before dinner.

The one downfall of the show is the ending. While it’s surprising and will tug at your heartstrings, it took me a moment to realize what happened, and when I did, the moment was gone, which lost some of the emotional impact.

While the ending didn’t quite live up to the rest of the show, The Cottage is a great end to Royal MTC’s 2018-2019 season, and a great ending to artistic director Steven Schipper’s final season.

The Cottage made me eager to get out to the lake this summer.

The Cottage runs until May 18, 2019 at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. Tickets start at $27 dollars and can be purchased here: