7:30 a.m., Dec. 4)
Vintage Stock Theatre's holiday production a wonderful
By Fred Sherwin
Vintage Stock Theatre production of 'A Long
Way From Home' features Sarah Benfield as
Annie Johnson and Randy Bellini as Rockcliffe
Fellowes. Fred Sherwin/Photo
Flemming has done it again. With her latest offering,
A Long Way From Home, on this weekend in the
Richcraft Theatre at the Shenkman Arts Centre, the Cumberland
playwright and founder of Vintage Stock Theatre has come
through with a brilliant piece of work that celebrates
the life of a long forgotten matinee idol from Ottawa
with reverence, compassion and a dash of wit.
St. Patrick Fellowes was born in Ottawa on March 17, 1883
to an established family with a checkered history.
grandfather, George Byron Lyon-Fellowes was jailed for
ballot stuffing in the 1855 provincial election; and 21
years later was charged with 11 counts of electoral fraud
when he successfully ran for mayor of Ottawa. As fate
would have it, however, he ended up dying a couple of
months later on the same day his trial was to begin. (Sounds
like a play for another day.)
own father was a successful businessman and Rockvliffe
was expected to follow in his footsteps. Instead, he ran
away to join the theatre where he became a successful
actor on Broadway.
big breakthrough came when he was cast to play the leading
role in the 1915 silent gangster film Regeneration.
According to Fellowes New York Times bio,
it remains one of the most revived and admired films of
the 1910s. Although he would appear in 16 other feature
films, both silent and talking, he never lived up to his
leading man potential. The last film he appeared in was
a western called Rusty Rides Alone which came
out in 1933.
Long Way From Home looks at Fellowes life
five years removed from his film career until his
death in 1950. He lives in a rooming house in L.A. where
he edits and rewrites scripts while living on a diet of
sardines, olives, crackers and martinis, and is often
visited by a handful of fellow rooming house residents.
Benfield is joined by Dan Smythe (centre)
and Victor Lachance in scene from 'A Long
Way From Home'. Fred Sherwin/Photo
Johnson is an aspiring actress with a thick Brooklyn accent
who looks to Fellowes for coaching and advice. George
Pembroke is another aspiting actor and writer. The other
member of Fellowes inner circle is his agent, Guy Coburn.
play unfolds over the course of seven scenes, all of which
take place in his apartment. The first scene takes place
shortly after Fellowes passing. Scenes two and three are
flash backs to when Fellowes first meets Coburn. They
cover the years 1938 and 1939.
remaining scenes take place betweem 1944 and 1950. In
Act 2 Scene 1, the audience is introduced to Lucile Watson,
who Fellowes was briefly married to in the 1910s. Although
she was born in Quebec, Watson also lived in Ottawa for
a brief period, before pursuing a career on Broadway.
would later move to Hollywood where she enjoyed a reasonably
successful career as a character actress. The pinnacle
of her career came in 1944 when she was nominated for
an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role
in Watch on the Rhine.
Flemmings play, Watson comes calling on Fellowes
on her way to the Academy Awards. She found his address
in the telephone directory.
two reminisce about the old days and its clear that
there is still a connection between the two of them, even
if the audience are the only ones who see it.
comes calling on Fellowes again five years later only
this time shes brought him a gift and its made clear
that they both still have feelings for each other.
the next to last scene, Coburn tells Fellowes that hes
found him a role that will revive his career. All he has
to do is show up for the audition. Fellowes never does
and the two old friends have a falling out. Fellowes dies
two months later and Coburn feels guilty that the two
of them never managed to patch things up.
play ends with Johnson finding a letter that Fellowes
had addressed to Coburn, but never mailed. One of the
running themes during the play is that Fellowes never
opens the letters he receives so he doesnt have
to answer them.
I said at the beginning of my review, the play is wonderfully
written, but it takes actors to bring even the best script
to life and without question the cast in A Long
Way From Home are amazing, starting with Randy Bellini,
who plays Rockcliffe Fellowes.
most ambitious role in the past was R.B. Bennett in the
Vintage Stock production. He was good in that, but hes
marvelous as Mr. Fellowes. As are Vintage Stock Theatre
veterans Sarah Benfield who plays Annie Johnson and Victor
Lachance who plays Guy Coburn. Another VST veteran, Dan
Smythe plays George Pembroke and David Elliot plays Eddie
Bowles, the son of another tennat in the rooming house.
by no means least, Ellen Manchee is terrific as well as
Lucile Watson. especially in the her final scene with
Long Way From Home opens Tuesday, Dec. 30at 7:30
p.m. in the Richcraft Theatre at the Shenkman Arts Centre.
Additional performances will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 30and Tuesday, Dec. 30at the same time. Tickets are $15
for adults and $12 for children.
story was made possible thanks to the generous support
of our local business partners.)
to Front Page