7-10 Split

Nary a gutterball

By Joe Belanger, The London Free Press

The 7-10 Split may be the toughest shot in 10-pin bowling. Thankfully, Port Stanley Theatre Festival won’t face such a tough task selling the play of the same name.

The world premiere of Michael Wilmot’s 7-10 Split is best described as a perfect game with nary a gutterball. Rather, the London playwright throws strike after strike, breaking funnybones along the way. The laughs come fast and furious — several of the belly variety — helped along by a wonderful cast and outstanding direction.

Director Richard Bauer’s production is as seamless as, well, a bowling lane, carrying the audience on a romp from start to finish, the ball rolling and curving, left to right and back again until it hits the target.

The hapless Earl, also known as ‘Curly Early’ (Terry Barna), once a promising amateur bowler, chose love and married the devoted (and pregnant) Brenda (Martha Zimmerman) instead of joining the professional bowling circuit.

Twenty years later, Earl is down and out, desperate for cash, and living in a trailer park. The cupboards are bare, the telephone’s been cut off, and bills continue to mount from a litany of bad investments that include discount Fudgesicles that melted on the living-room floor and a load of dead lobsters.

Earl and Brenda have nothing but each other. Fortunately, their love has survived and is played convincingly by Barna and Zimmerman, both familiar to Port Stanley audiences.

They are joined in the early going by Brenda’s wise brother, Larry, (Rod Keith, Zimmerman’s real-life husband), who lives across the lane and whom Earl resents for “stealing” a job he wanted as a security guard at an apple-processing plant.

Earl, desperate to make some fast cash, has responded to an e-mail from Count Gustaf (Bruce Tubbe), who lives in some small European country and is willing to give up 10% of his $150-million fortune if only Earl will send him $10,000 to free his frozen assets.

“We’ll be thousandaires!” Earl declares while explaining his get-rich-quick scheme to Brenda and Larry, and the fact he’s already sent the Count a cheque (bearing his current address) from a long-closed bank account.

Earl then receives an e-mail confirming that a cheque for $15 million is in the mail. The celebration, however, is short-lived when the angry Count arrives at their door to collect the $10,000.

I applaud the entire cast for convincing performances. Each character is played with the honesty and conviction that’s as crucial to great comedy as timing. There’s not a weak link or a wasted moment in the script or production.

The timing seemed flawless, except for the tempo in the first few minutes. It was a tad too fast-paced, probably due to opening jitters. Tubbe is especially brilliant in a demanding role that carries the second act.

The set design by Eric Bunnell is perfect, from the Tiki lights (made of Christmas lights inside plastic beer cups), to the pink velour furniture, the white plastic coat rack, the beer cases and stuffed-bear collection along the window valance, to the miniature-spoon collection on the wall.

Ditto for the costumes. Brenda’s, uh, ‘stylish’ lime green pants are fabulous and the Count’s kitschy, black tuxedo with Nehru collar, black fedora and black leather doctor’s bag delivers an image reminiscent of the priest from The Exorcist.

When it comes to stage comedy, the only questions you really need to ask are: Did it make you laugh and how much?


E-mail joe.belanger@sunmedia.ca, read Joe's columns or follow JoeBatLFPress on Twitter.

Raves and Reviews!

7-10 Split

Side-splitting comedy at Garrison Little Theatre

WhatsOn Feb 25, 2014 by Melinda Cheevers Fort Erie Post

While the “split” in the title of Garrison Little Theatre’s latest production, 7-10 Split, is a bowling reference, it could have just as easily been a warning for the audience members: this play will make you laugh and your sides split.

Set in a trailer park somewhere in southern Ontario, the play written by Michael Wilmot tells the story of Earl and Brenda, a down-on-their luck couple who are lucky in love but not much else. Earl, played deftly by Dan Bennett, is a schemer constantly in search of the big score and is haunted by his past failures. His biggest “what if?” involves his decision not to go pro with his bowling career, and instead settling down to start his family with Brenda.

When Earl tells Brenda of his latest scheme, involving a crown prince in some far away country he can’t pronounce, he believes their troubles are far behind them — instead, he’s about to find out that they’re just beginning.

Bennett truly shines in his role as Earl, a loser who is so charming you can understand why someone like Brenda would love him. The on-stage chemistry between him and Darka Makarec as Brenda is more than believable and she is able to convincingly demonstrate her exasperation in a nuanced way. Eye rolling, puffed cheeks and loud sighs can very easily be overacted but Makarec manages to do it with ease and an air of believability (and humour).

Lee Moffatt is a little too convincing as Prince Gustaf, the fake prince with a more sinister side and Rick Nigh as brother Larry plays a great straight man to Bennett’s over the top Earl.

First produced in 2011, 7-10 Split made its debut at the Port Stanley Festival Theatre so it’s a perfect fit for a community theatre production company like GLT. Its run in Fort Erie started out on Friday night and continues this weekend with shows on Friday and Saturday evening.

In addition to getting to see a well-acted, funny play, theatre-goers to GLT’s evening performances also get a four-course meal that includes a salad and bread course, pasta with meatballs and sausages, chicken with roasted potatoes and vegetables and topped off with dessert served with coffee or tea. The meals are provided by Maria’s Catering and are worth the cost of admission alone.

Tickets are $35 plus HST each, purchase information can be found at www.artsniagara.com/garrison-little-theatre.

GLT plays are staged at Italo-Canadian Club, 1101 DiPietro St. in Fort Erie. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and dinner is served at 7 p.m.

Markham Little Theatre’s 7/10 Split  ‘pure entertainment’

WhatsOn Apr 16, 2015 by Barbara Clifford, Markham Economist & Sun

You could call Markham Little Theatre’s  “7/10 Split”, a comedy by Michael G Wilmot, “living the dream on 22 Cherry St., Green Gables Trailer Park!” Or perhaps, more accurately, “Welcome to my Nightmare”!

This delightfully funny play introduces us to Earl, a down on his luck former “almost pro bowler” and lover of money, whose numerous attempts to profit from get rich quick schemes have only resulted in failure of “gutter-ball” proportions.

But Earl’s luck is about to change when he connects with a wealthy Crown Prince on the Internet who makes him “an offer he just can’t refuse”.....an investment opportunity that will inspire his greatest scheme yet!  What could possibly go wrong?!?

A wonderfully realized set, by Ron Brownsberger, transports us to Earl and Brenda’s trailer-park home resplendent with an eclectic array of furnishings, broken telephone lines and fuzzy TV reception that results from mounting bills that cannot be paid.

Co-directed by Kate O’Hearn and Terry Browne, “7/10 Split” will have you howling with laughter as you cheer for the underdogs who will try just about anything to get out of the mess they find themselves in but, all the while, secretly falling just a little for a thug who possesses the wit and tools to get the job done!

A very strong cast — Earl, a hapless but once promising “amateur” bowler who chose love and marriage over joining the pro circuit and now finds himself living in a trailer park, played by John Sellens; Brenda, his devoted wife with an acerbic bite that only wives who truly love and support their husbands through thick and thin can get away with, played by newcomer Lisa Meers; Larry (Brenda’s brother) who actually “has a job”, played by Mark Boyko; and Crown Prince Gustaf, a thug of “royal proportions” in terms of wit, charm and comedic timing, played by Steve Birtles.

“7/10 Split” will have you laughing out loud and maybe thinking twice about that offer that comes your way and just seems too good to be true. Pure entertainment, not to be missed.

7-10 Split

 by Francie Dennison, Port Stanley News

 Some absolutely priceless dialogue marks Michael Wilmot's new play, 7-10 Split which opened at the Port Stanley Festival Theatre on July 7, 2011.

Directed by Richard Bauer, this fast-paced comedy is designed to whirlwind the audience through the lost dreams of what might have been and the schemes that failed, into finally making peace with what is. And once again, Eric Bunnell created a masterpiece in the set design.

True to the comic genre, this troupe plays the stereotype characters to the "n"th degree. Terry Barna's "Earl" epitomizes the trailer park scheme-a-dreamer who is always after that one, elusive big score that will finally pay off. Martha Zimmerman plays the enabling, long-suffering wife who is simultaneously supportive and criticizing. Rod Keith as the object of Earl's jealousy is the loveable, lucky, gainfully-employed brother-in-law who lives across the road.

Now mix in Bruce Tubbe's "Crown Prince Gustave", who is a mix of Count Dracula and a mob hit man, and the stage is set for the hilarious turn of events as Earl's internet scam to get rich quick starts to unravel in his own living room - with the "victim" calling the shots!

The one flaw in the opening night performance - which will probably disappear in subsequent performances - was that it was played with a consistent intensity throughout, rather than the more expected ebb and flow that can highlight special moments.

Well worth seeing for the sheer fun of it, 7-10 Split runs until July 23, 2011.