Persephone Theatre comedy finds humour in talking about sex and relationships

Jenna-Lee Hyde (left) plays Sarah, the down-on-her-luck daughter of Gail, played by Pamela Haig Bartley (right) in 'The Birds and the Bees' at Persephone Theatre from March 29 to April 23, 2023. (Supplied / Photo courtesy of Persephone Theatre)

If you ask performer Jenna-Lee Hyde, the last show in Persephone Theatre’s main stage season is “a story about relationships.”

There’s also a lot of talk about sex in the aptly-named The Birds and the Bees.

“I don’t know anybody in my life who actually got ‘the birds and the bees’ talk. I certainly didn’t,” Hyde joked. “I think this show is a good example of some the ways we teach ourselves about sex, and throughout our lives the lessons we learn about sex and how it evolves.”

Hyde is one of the stars of The Birds and the Bees, a comedy by Canadian playwright Mark Crawford running at Persephone Theatre from March 29 to April 23.

The play follows Sarah (Hyde) as she returns home to live with her mother Gail (Pamela Haig Bartley) following Sarah’s separation from her husband. As Sarah finds herself ignored by mother who seems to care more about her honeybees than her daughter, the pair must navigate their own complicated relationship as well as their increasingly awkward connections with long-time neighbour Earl (Cavan Cunningham) and the young enthusiastic Masters student Ben (Ray Jacildo).

The show’s title being a common metaphor for explaining sex is well-placed. Hyde said the play includes “loads” of jokes and reference to sex in a way that brings both great moments of comedy and relatability.

“There’s also the ways we don’t talk about sex — the ways that it’s taboo, it’s uncomfortable, it’s embarrassing, the way there’s some things we’re taught we don’t say about ourselves or other people,” Hyde said.

The humour in this show, Hyde said, comes from Crawford’s clever script. While it’s never fun to be embarrassed, Hyde noted that watching other people be embarrassed is funny onstage — and watching adults fumble their way through talking about uncomfortable subjects creates hilarious moments.

Though most of the jokes come out of the text, Hyde said the character interactions are where the fun of the show really shines through.

“It’s really in how we respond and react to each other, and that’s where the laughs come from,” she said. “It’s where some really true and touching moments happen, too.”

Hyde was quick to laud her fellow performers for how much they made her laugh in rehearsals. As she puts it, watching everyone else’s scenes has been the best — and funniest — part of the process.

Through all the dirty jokes, Hyde said one of the strengths of The Birds and the Bees what its heartfelt honesty.

She complimented Crawford’s script for using believable language and dialogue to navigate its rocky relationships.

“This show is really funny, but then there are moments where people are saying exactly how they feel to each other and they just want to be heard,” Hyde said. “Theatre is such a powerful thing because it’s a place we go to learn empathy. I think a really good way to learn to care about people is to laugh with them.”

Directed by Anita Smith, the show is a co-production with Regina’s Globe Theatre, and will run in Regina after it wraps in Saskatoon.

As audiences prepare for the final main stage show in Persephone Theatre’s 2022-2023 season, Hyde said she’d like viewers to walk away a bit more hopeful than they arrived.

“I hope they just have a really good time, and go about their next day or the day after feeling like more things are possible, that there is more joy or hope in the world than maybe we’ve seen the last few years,” she said.

The Birds and the Bees runs at Persephone Theatre from March 29 to April 23. Tickets are available at persephonetheatre.org

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