As I waited for the first installment of Wild Heart Acres to begin, it slowly dawned on me what song was playing to set the mood. I’ll admit I only know My Rifle, My Pony and Me from a brief Sopranos moment with Tony and a horse, but Dean Martin’s easy baritone fit right in for a show about the wild frontier. There’s a quaint, home-grown quality to the American prairies, and director Brent Skagford told me that as much as he loved the aesthetics, he also wanted to do something at Montreal Improv that would focus on characters.
Well, putting Dino’s voice and the image of a Western family together in my head, I could only hope that the packed house was ready to give the best possible suggestions to get the actors going.
Without the audience’s full participation, it would’ve been a long, chilly night. But within minutes of lights fading, people were laughing and then howling off of one single idea: flying.
From there, it morphed into a flying machine, a nasty whooping cough, an attack of “Burt’s” bees that both sting and cure, and finally a dash to Meadow’s Creek to defeat an evil murderous pig. All told, five actors summoned 11 characters with only the slightest scene changes to music from the era of Rio Bravo and High Noon.
With the second installment this Thursday night at 8:30, here’s a recap of Episode 1:
The Stanley family, while at home, look out into the distance and see a sinister-looking shadow over their crop field. Worried, Pa Moses Stanley (Vance Gillis) takes a closer look and realizes it’s some sort of flying machine destroying the corn. He decides to pay the town elder, Emmett J. Murdoch (James McGee), a visit.
At Emmett’s house, his sick mother, Mrs. Murdoch (Kyla Margaret), sends him to the haberdashery for muslin for a dress for church. He tries to heal her whooping cough with a jar of Burt’s bees, but he gets horribly stung and rendered almost speechless.
Moses Stanley arrives at the Murdoch house to talk about how to solve the flying machine problem, but Emmett takes a turn for the worse and must see a healer right away. Mrs. Murdoch confesses to Moses that Emmett is the one who commissioned the flying machine from two farmers to gain control of the town. Meadow’s Creek is where Moses will find the flying machine and the pigs who guard it. Suddenly, Moses realizes that a big, mean pig was responsible for the death of his beloved wife.
With her newly acquired muslin, Mrs. Murdoch and Moses go to church to pray and find healing for sick Emmett, and while there, they meet Katrina Crow (Ariel DeRoo), the “town hag” and gossip.
Mrs. Murdoch and Katrina get scrappy until Moses chases the hag away, for he must get to Meadow’s Creek.
Young Hazel Stanley (Lara Simms) and Timothy Bailey (Vance Gillis) decide to go to Meadow’s Creek on their own to confront pig farmers Porkchop (James McGee) and Wheelbarrow (Lara Simms), while the two plot their next move with the sinister flying machine. Hazel and Timothy burst in and a huge fight ensues, with Porkchop and Wheelbarrow finally defeated and “laid low”.
Just then, Mrs. Murdoch and Moses Stanley arrive, but everyone is attacked by the other Moses, the big pig (James McGee). Shy Lottie Stanley (Ariel DeRoo) saves the day by using her power to subdue wild animals. With the pig reformed, the girls decide he really isn’t so bad and they beg their Pa Stanley for permission to keep him.
Stay tuned for Episode 2.
Wild Heart Acres’ next installment is Thursday February 20th, at Montreal Improv (3697 St-Laurent). Doors open at 8:00pm, show starts at 8:30pm. Tickets are $8 and will be available at the door.