Marshall Button (left) and Cassandra Guthrie are pictured in Come Down from Up River, which is set to open at Morrisburg’s Upper Canada Playhouse on Sept. 8. The comedy will run until Oct. 2. Directed by Jesse Collins, the three-person cast also includes Alison MacKay, who is not pictured. Courtesy Photo

MORRISBURG – With the current production of Wally’s Café closing on Aug. 28, the Upper Canada Playhouse (UCP) is gearing up for a month of comedy with Norm Foster’s Come Down from Up River.

The play opens Sept. 8 and will run until Oct. 2 at the Morrisburg venue. Headlining the show is Marshall Button, who plays Shaver Bennett, a man who has lived his life on Northern New Brunswick’s Miramichi River.

“A hallmark of Foster’s work is his ability to evoke laughter while pulling on heartstrings at the same time,” UCP artistic director Donnie Bowes said. “And this play does it in spades.”

The play sees Bennett travelling to Saint John for a medical appointment, where he stays with his estranged niece, Bonnie Doyle, who he hasn’t seen for 23 years. Played by Alison MacKay, Doyle is a successful lawyer who built her own life after being sent away by Bennett following the death of her mother. Doyle lives with her wife, Liv, who is played by Cassandra Guthrie. The visit is turbulent and eye-opening for Bennett.

“Much more than a country-mouse [versus] city-mouse tale, this play examines the risks of making assumptions about other people and how we perceive their new ideas and lifestyles,” director Jesse Collins said. “The play is ultimately about family – the family we are born into, the family we lose touch with, and the families that we choose to build our lives around.”

This is a joint production between UCP and Orillia Opera House, where the show recently opened to rave reviews in advance of its UCP opening, Bowes said. He shared a quote from Orillia’s Dockside Publishing: “Foster is at his best. His writing is so persistently funny. It’s the kind of play that will leave a smile playing about your lips but have you still thinking about the characters days later. Button plays Shaver Bennett so well the role could almost have been written for him.”

Button was UCP’s first artistic director for roughly 15 seasons. He’s also performed and/or directed many UCP productions. MacKay has also been seen in many UCP productions, while Guthrie is a “bright new talent,” Bowes said. Like Button and MacKay, Collins is a familiar face at the Morrisburg theatre, having “delivered many hit productions.”

“We’ve been getting enthusiastic audiences all summer and we’re beginning to see more and more people feeling good about seeing our shows again,” Bowes said. “Hopefully, as things begin to normalize, we’ll be back to our customary full houses before long. The Playhouse experience is back. It’s good for our theatre and good for our community.”