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Buchanan production brings laughs, far-out schemes to audience

The Buchanan Black Box Players production of Pirates of the River Saskatchewan made it seem to the audience that there could really be active pirates in our province.

BUCHANAN - The idea of active pirates in Saskatchewan may be ridiculous to most of us, but the Buchanan Black Box Players production of Pirates of the River Saskatchewan made it seem to the audience that it could really happen.

Written and directed by Betty Tomilin, the presentation took place on April 25-27 in Buchanan.

Pirates of the River Saskatchewan is based on the music of, and with permission from The Arrogant Worms.

“I always liked their song The Last Saskatchewan Pirate,” said Tomilin. “I contacted them and asked if it was OK to write a play based on the song.” The play included a number of humorous musical parodies.

With participating actors ranging in age from approximately eight to 80, combined with the unique subject matter, the production had appeal to pretty much all age groups.

Tomilin said the performances went well and were well-received,, with one audience member commenting that she, “laughed so hard in the first act, I had to massage my face at intermission.”      

In her director’s message included in the program, Tomilin shared, “Besides the usual rehearsals, painting, business end and decorating, even more work went into this year’s production. Singing, parodies, set design, costumes, choreography, complicated tech – it was challenging to put together and so many helped to get the show to where it is tonight.”

When we meet Farmer Jack (Steven Wyonzek) and his Farm Hand (Ernie Kozak) the banker has taken their land and they aren’t having any luck finding work. Farmer Jack suddenly comes to the realization, “But I’ve got too much pride to end up just another bum. Then I thought, who gives a hoot if all the jobs are gone, I’m gonna be a pirate on the River Saskatchewan!”

The pair get right into their new pursuit, acquire a boat, and steal some fertilizer off an unprotected barge.

Mountie Bob (Darryl Goossen) suddenly appears and tells the pair that they’re under arrest. But since the Mountie is on the shoreline and the other two are on a boat, the arrest falls through.

Unfortunately there’s really not enough room on the boat for them and the fertilizer, so Farm Hand and Farmer Jack go looking for a real pirate ship.

At this point, they start listing off all the taxes they’re going to have to pay, including the carbon tax.

FARMER JACK: Why would the feds put a carbon tax on a mode of transportation that uses wind power?

FARM HAND: Because they can?

FARMER JACK: Point taken. (Pauses in thought)   I want my carbon tax rebate cheque and a pirate ship!

They move on and run into Mountie Bob again, who is doing some fishing, without a license, since he has become another victim of cutbacks. Due to his expertise in the area of pursuing pirate ships, Farmer Jack and Farm Hand offer Mountie Bob a job, and he now becomes Salty Bob.

We meet Gus Lesse (Steve Merriam) and his sister Ruth (Ashley Davis). Ruth is on her way to an historical boat tour. After getting fed up with working from home and the associated computer problems, Gus decides it’s time for a new job.

Down at the dock we find a Sask Jobs posting manned by a pair of Pirate Mimes (Erin Graas and Nicole Monchamp). They are supposed to be looking for pirate recruits, but instead start messing around with the job posting, leading Gus to believe he’s applying for a “pastrie” chef job. But the pirate Blood Thirsty (Betty Tomilin) comes in to check on them, and really lets them have it, “What do you two lily livered landlubbers think you’re doing? Get those letters organized! Captain said that we need two recruits today. Two! Can you even count that high?”

After Blood Thirty exits, Ruth sees the ‘Pirates’ posting and applies for the position, thinking that it’s for a day tour excursion. But she finds it very challenging to get much information, since she’s dealing with mimes.

Blood Thirsty returns, along with Captain Kal (Ron Adair) and the rest of the pirates (Maisie Kuzminski, Mataya Bell, Cherish Lazaroff, Tammy Senholdt, Lynne Hartley, Erica Leung and Carol Tubman). The Pirate Mimes enter with a pair of new “recruits” who are actually delivery men and brothers (Zarin and Reein Godhe). They are dropping off a Persian rug for the Captain, who is adamant that he never ordered anything. Upon closer inspection, the rug is squirming, and out jumps Little Sister (Atlin Godhe), who loudly warns her brothers/delivery men, “I’m telling Mom!”

Ruth makes it on to the pirate ship just in time before they sail, and is quite impressed, “so authentic looking.”

After Ruth exits, Gus comes in and remarks, “This is one odd-looking bakery.”

When questioned about his qualifications by Captain Kal, Gus mentions that he’s quite good at whipping, beating, peeling, slicing and dicing, to which the Captain replies, “What kind of monsters do you think we are? We’re pirates!”

Gus quickly makes it clear that he did not sign up to work on a pirate ship, but rather, “A pastry ship. At the job recruitment place, there were these two guys with their faces painted white, wearing striped shirts. In retrospect they didn’t say a whole lot.”

We see Salty Bob, still in his RCMP uniform, attempt to commandeer the ship, but Captain Kal pays no attention, ordering Ruth to “Throw him in the brig!”

Farm Hand and Farmer Jack return, looking for a more successful way to acquire a pirate ship, when Farm Hand brings up the subject of mermaids. “According to some myths, when sailors hear the mermaids sing, they fall asleep. If the mermaids were willing to help us, perhaps they could sing and when everyone on the ship fell asleep, we could board the ship and take it over.”

The pirates make their way off the ship to a local pub, where they thoroughly enjoy themselves, perhaps too much. When asked by the Red Coats to state their business, Captain M (Megan Simon) replies, “I’m here to steal money from unsuspecting patrons and of course…yourselves!’”
It quickly becomes clear that Captain M has very little respect for Captain Kal.

“I didn’t mean to say that Captain Kal is a lazy laggard with rusty, dull weapons. I meant to say that his weapons are so dull that the only thing they’ll cut is melted butter!”

To no one’s real surprise, a rollicking brawl breaks out, involving just about everyone in the pub. In the aftermath, we see many of the participating pirates lined up, with Captain Kal delivering a stern lecture. “What in the briny deep were you all thinking?! You were on shore leave, not out to plunder and pillage! That’s next Tuesday.”

Elsewhere, Farm Hand and Farmer Jack caught up with the Mermaid Chorus (Lynne Harley, Tammy Senholdt, Erica Leung and Carol Tubman) and the Mermaid Queen (Cherish Lazaroff), who, wouldn’t you know it, also runs a successful tech support service. “It’s a lucrative side hustle.”

The mermaids agree to sing a song near the ship so that everyone on board falls asleep. Farm Hand and Farmer Jack board the ship, and the singing begins, But unfortunately, not everyone has fallen asleep. An epic battle ensues, including a grand sword fight between Captain Kal and Farmer Jack. Eventually, with nothing decided, they are both exhausted and agree to a lip sync battle instead. Captain Kal is declared the winner, but graciously offers Farmer Jack and his crew the opportunity to join the ship.

The play closes with the entire cast singing the song that started it all, The Last Saskatchewan Pirate by the Arrogant Worms.

Director Betty Tomilin said there were 30 cast members involved in the production, plus a technician, a musician and two makeup assistants, in addition to everyone involved with the dinner theatre.

“I’d like to acknowledge Val Edwards,” added Tomilin. “She wasn’t able to be in this year’s show but we have the Buchanan Black Box Players in our community because it was her idea to ‘put on a play as a fundraiser’ 27 plays ago.” 

In 1993, Edwards was the director for that first production, It’s Cold In Them Thar Hills.