Enjoying its world premiere at Lunchbox Theatre, Peter Boychuk’s Fritters in Kandahar tells an undeniably Canadian story about finding home in a far, unknown place.
In 2006, the Canadian Forces Personnel Support Agency opened a Tim Hortons outlet for soldiers deployed in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Before ceasing operations in 2011, the Tim Hortons outlet served “four million cups of coffee, three million donuts and half a million iced cappuccinos and bagels” to soldiers from all different nations.
Tired of her humdrum life in Airdrie, Lisa (Amy Sawka) applies to work at the Tim Hortons outlet on the Kandahar base. Lisa’s boyfriend Craig (Evan Hall) absolutely disapproves of her leaving their comfortable, if stale, life for a war zone, especially when she could do the same job at home. Contrary to what Craig thinks, however, it’s not just about slinging coffee. For Lisa, it’s about serving her country, to whatever capacity she can. All good and well, except Craig suspects Lisa is leaving Canada to be with her recruiter Daryl (Justin-Michael Carriere).
The humour in travelling across the world to work at a Tim Hortons is not lost on Boychuk, but it is a premise that he handles appropriately. After all, there are many ways each of us find purpose in our lives. While Lisa recognizes that fact, she still thinks her boss Debra (Barbara Gates Wilson) is too uptight – and mean – about managing the store. It’s just donuts and coffee, Lisa thinks.
What Lisa ultimately realizes is that it’s the little things in life that we miss the most sometimes. Something so simple as, say, a double-double from the Tim Hortons just down the street. Because in that double-double, there’s not just cream and sugar, but memories, too. Memories of all the times we shared coffee with friends, family, and neighbours. And none if it could be important than when you’re miles away from home, surrounded by danger, and have suffered incredible loss.
So, if Debra can offer soldiers even just a brief escape from what’s outside the base, then she is going to do so by pouring her heart and soul into every cup of coffee she serves.
Boychuk stirs in good doses of comic relief, mainly from Hall and Carriere’s characters, into the mix. Director Val Goggin stages the physical humour well, although the general pace of the play feels a bit sluggish. Initial scenes between Hall and Sawka feel particularly lacking in zest, as if there is some hesitation from the actors.
Wilson really knows how to turn on a dime emotionally. The moment that Lisa and the audience discover there is more to Debra than meets the eye is a striking moment. Sawka and Wilson share a fun dynamic together as Wilson puts Sawka through her paces. Sawka plays ‘fish out of water’ with a charming sweetness that makes the resolution of her character’s journey all the more satisfying.
Carriere plays Daryl with a real cool composure that, to our enjoyment, dips into meathead territory. Compare that against Hall’s panic towards change (the only change Craig wants is a bigger TV!), and there’s a lot of fun to be had when the two butt heads over Lisa.
For sure, Boychuk’s script is about as sweet as eating a dozen fritters at once, but there is still something genuinely heartfelt to take away from this story about a real Canadian event – especially with Remembrance Day around the corner. Still, Lunchbox Theatre’s Fritters in Kandahar might be more appetizing with stronger direction to steer the narrative forward.
Peter Boychuk’s Fritters in Kandahar runs at Lunchbox Theatre, Oct 26 – Nov 14.
Lunchbox Theatre is accepting non-perishable food items for the Veteran’s Food Bank. Veterans and military personnel are invited to attend the show for free.
For more information about the show, visit: http://www.lunchboxtheatre.com/fritters-in-kandahar
To read more about the Tim Hortons outlet that operated in Kandahar: https://www.timhortons.com/ca/en/corporate/kandahar-withdrawal.php