Ethan Claymore's Christmas is an entirely original work, written by one of Canada's favourite playwrights, Norm Foster, but audiences will no doubt see in the show elements of other classic Christmas tales.
"It connects us to all those great Christmas stories that we know," says actor Jesse Collins, who plays the title character in the Upper Canada Playhouse production that debuted November 28 on the Morrisburg stage.
The story revolves around a recently widowed egg farmer who has to contend not only with a nosy neighbour and a potential love interest but also the ghost of his estranged brother, Martin, who seems to have eschewed a peaceful rest for no other reason than to aggravate his sibling.
Starring alongside Collins is Sweeney MacArthur, who plays the nosy neighbour, and whom Playhouse audiences will remember from his turns in The Christmas Express and The Ladies Foursome, as well as Viviana Zarrillo, the new teacher in town who has an eye for Ethan. She last entertained local audiences in Same Time Next Year and Plaza Suite.
Playing the wise-cracking spirit is Jamie Williams, who has starred in numerous productions at the Playhouse, including this summer's hit comedy, Lunenburg. Alongside the adults, there will also be three young local actors on stage. They will help tell the story of Ethan and Martin's troubled past through flashbacks to their childhood. Gavin Veinotte will play the young Martin, and the role of young Ethan will be shared by Jack Peets and Liam McMahon.
As in all of Foster's plays, Ethan Claymore's Christmas offers up the perfect mix of heart and drama, warmth and humour, and with such excellent actors inhabiting such finely written roles, the show is certain to make an impression on the audience.
"People can connect to the characters," says director Donnie Bowes, who is also the artistic director at the Upper Canada Playhouse.
The people on stage aren't just types or plot devices; they're real people, and they all have history. A big part of this show is the history between Ethan and his brother.
"Martin is still stuck," says Williams, of the dispute between the siblings. "It's shaped his whole life and it's still affecting him in death."
One of the the qualities that sets Foster apart and which distinguishes his work is his ability to weave together sentiment and humour, and in Ethan Claymore's Christmas, Foster combines a poignant drama with some big laughs and a generous measure of Christmas spirit.
"It is certainly funny and it's certainly joyous," says Bowes.
It's also selling out quickly, so anybody who wants to enjoy a pleasant and heart-warming afternoon or evening out ought to reserve a seat soon. Tickets can be purchased online at uppercanadaplayhouse.com or by calling the box office at 613-543-3713 or 877-550-3650.
The show runs from November 28 to December 15.