Upcoming play explores enduring friendship

The Last Weekend, which opens March 6 at Ladysmith Little Theatre, is a story about life and relationships.

Ladysmith Little Theatre’s latest production, The Last Weekend, promises to be an emotional exploration of the complexity of human relationships.

Touching on love, loss, death, family relationships and secrets, but most of all on deep and enduring friendship, The Last Weekend is the tale of three old friends who gather one last time before the imminent death of one of them, a woman named Tina who has cancer. Along for the trip are Tina’s sister, a woman none of the others particularly like, and fellow cottage country neighbour Matt. The story is about their last weekend together, the discussions they have and the memories they share.

Despite the serious theme, it’s not necessarily a sad play, says director Joanne Rowland, but instead a frank look at the funny, serious, sorrowful and joyful moments that make up our lives. The Last Weekend was written by Barbara Wheeldon, and Ladysmith Little Theatre’s performance marks its debut.

“It’s a story about life,” said Rowland. “There is lots of humour in it, but you could shed a few tears as well.”

The Last Weekend mirrors the playwright’s own experience as a younger woman. Like her characters, Wheeldon once spent a “last weekend” in Ontario’s cottage country with close friends, one of whom was dying of cancer. The experience so affected her, said Rowland, that Wheeldon was compelled to write a play that centres on the same theme.

Years later, in March of 2013, the playwright herself succumbed to cancer, but not before giving Rowland her permission to produce the play. Bringing the story and the characters to life has been difficult for Rowland, who describes Wheeldon as her “very dear friend,” but it has also been rewarding. Rowland provided input and support over seven years as Wheeldon wrote and edited the play, and she thinks her friend would be thrilled at the idea of it being performed.

“I think she would be delighted,” she said.

Wheeldon, a professional actor, was passionate about the stage and loved live theatre. Her characters are true to life, said Rowland, and the story is believable because it is rooted in truth.

“I think the play appeals to anybody who has had a lifelong friend or a best friend,” she said. “I think people will see themselves in one or more of the characters. A lot of us are going through a lot of the elements and people will identify strongly with the characters. I think they’ll find it a really good theatre evening.”

The Last Weekend runs from March 6 through 23 and stars Pat Zogar, Georgina DuVal, Marni Hastings, Lori Mann and Richard Chilibeck.

For complete ticket information, including dinner options on select nights, click here or phone 250-924-0658.

Rowland said that in her will, Wheeldon gave money to a charity that trains service animals for people with disabilities. In order to honour her memory, all of the royalties collected for The Last Weekend will be donated to the same charity.