Location, location, location - STC staging 'Real Estate'

By: Judi Straughan

 | Feb 19, 2014 - 2:48 PM |
Ted Phillips (right, played by actor Rick Hughes) gives a foot massage to Joel Hopper (Patrick Howarth) in a scene from from STC’s production of “Real Estate.” Photo by Arron Pickard.

Ted Phillips (right, played by actor Rick Hughes) gives a foot massage to Joel Hopper (Patrick Howarth) in a scene from from STC’s production of “Real Estate.” Photo by Arron Pickard.

Playwright debuts as lead latest production

Once a fireball, always a fireball — and Allana Harkin, playwright of STC’s current comedy “Real Estate” shows her fireball roots in no uncertain terms.

Harkin, who holds an MFA from York University, teamed up with three other smart, funny and talented women to form the comedy sketch group, The Atomic Fireballs. Remember fireball candy? Sweet on the outside and hot on the inside. That pretty well tells the tale.

By 2001, they were ranked No. 4 on the comedy scene in Toronto.

Harkin is funny — there’s no debating that — and Sudbury audiences are about to find out just how funny in “Real Estate.”

Here’s what makes it all extra special. For the first time, Harkin, a trained actor, performs the role of Emma the Real Estate agent herself. Although the play has been done countless times around the world, including in New Zealand, Harkin as not been available to perform in it until now.

What a coup for STC and what a treat for the audience.

Emma, the real estate agent, has to sell Joel Hopper’s house in one week and neither Joel, nor his house, have immediate appeal. Added to that, this is Emma’s first gig. It’s a recipe for comedy disaster, especially when Joel’s ex-wife and new boyfriend show up.

Harkin says she was raised in a funny family.

“Both my parents are funny, especially my mother,” she said. “And we didn’t shy away from any topics in our house, no matter how serious.”

In the play, Joel Hopper is going through a tough time juggling his career as a novelist, his aging father, his ex-wife and his tax arrears.

Yet Harkin cuts through it all, makes us laugh and manages to make some of Joel’s problems dissolve by the play’s resolution.

Harkin has what it takes to bring the audience to its knees.

“When I wrote for 'This Hour Has 22 Minutes,' it was like comedy boot camp,” she said. “We’d write comedy for 12 hours a day.

“Playwriting gives me time to breathe. There’s a real beginning and ending and change in each character. I love it. My mother-in-law is a real estate agent and many of the situations in the play are actually true.”

How did she know this play was good when she first wrote it?

“I mustered up the nerve to send it to Norm Foster (the king of comedic plays in Canada),” Harkin said. “He read the script and loved it.”

Since then, “Real Estate” has had about two dozen productions.

“I’ve bought tickets in cognito to see my show in various places and love listening to the audience and their reactions and plot predictions,” she said. “That’s a big payoff for me.”

Harkin will, no doubt, receive a double payoff in Sudbury’s production — first as playwright and second as comedic actor. Double the fun for all of us.

“Real Estate” plays at the Sudbury Theatre Centre from Feb. 20 to March 9.

Judi Straughan is the education co-ordinator at Sudbury Theatre Centre.

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