Stage Door News

Port Dover: “Come Down From Up River” directed by Sheila McCarthy opens tomorrow

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

With warmer weather ahead it’s time for Lighthouse Festival’s annual summer season to take the stage once again, offering up a summer-long series of comedy and drama on the shores of Lake Erie.

First up for 2023 is Come Down From Up River, a Norm Foster-written tale about a same-sex couple who are worried about the imminent re-emergence of an estranged uncle, who has been living in the New Brunswick wilderness and hasn’t made an appearance in 20 years.

The play is directed by acclaimed Canadian actress Sheila McCarthy. McCarthy has had a long and impressive career, appearing in a wide range of projects from blockbuster films including Die Hard 2 and The Day After Tomorrow to CBC sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie, to her more recent roles in the Netflix smash The Umbrella Academy and in Canadian icon Sarah Polley’s Oscar-winning film Women Talking.

She called her experience with the latter film a whirlwind ride, explaining, “I got to go to the Oscars and right across North America doing publicity with Frances McDormand, Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Ben Whishaw, just a whole bunch of movie stars. Making the movie was one of the most moving … and hardest experiences I’ve ever done.”

McCarthy spoke about what drew her to Lighthouse for her directorial debut: “Whenever I’m asked to be part of a Norm Foster play, I get so excited. Norm has this incredible ability to capture stories about people that audiences will recognize and see themselves in. He just understands the human condition so beautifully and writes his plays with incredible, laugh-in-the-aisles humour, but he also walks the fine line between comedy and tragedy and often breaks your heart when you least expect it.”

She called Foster a master at mining comedy gold exploring the things people are not good at: “There is so much in this play that is hilariously funny … misinterpreting or misunderstanding what someone is saying, no one understands that more than Norm Foster. There are huge rabbit holes and mines to go down in this play…. It’s a beautiful piece that I think audiences will relate to and love. Get out your Kleenex.”

She said she relishes the opportunity to dig into smaller, more personal projects like Come Down From Up River: “When you’re part of a movie like Die Hard 2, or The Day After Tomorrow, big blockbusters, you’re a very small cog in a rather big wheel. It’s satisfying in terms of your career, and you get to be in a big blockbuster, but as an artist, it can be less than satisfying…. I’m super proud to be here in Port Dover working on a Norm Foster play.”

She continued, “I’m so happy to be here in this incredible community, at this beautiful theatre. The people who run it, their heart is in the right place. I wouldn’t be anywhere else right now.”

The play stars Lighthouse veteran Ralph Small as Shaver, the uncle, and Eliza-Jane Scott and Fuschia Boston as married couple Bonnie and Liv.

Boston spoke about her experience, making her professional theatre debut following completion of her studies at University of Toronto and Sheridan College: “At first I was very intimidated…. When I saw the cast list and the credentials, I was taken aback. I thought, ‘Oh god, it’s my first one and they’re all extremely well-versed and talented’…. After three days I started feeling more comfortable.”

She sees her role as a chance to “speak to presumptions we might have about people in regard to race and homophobia. As the character, I see myself as someone who tries to inspire the other characters and really open up and be who they truly are and accept each other.”

McCarthy praised her small cast, noting how all three bring something unique to the show, adding, “It’s an incredible cast of actors; I’m fortunate to have them.”

She concluded, “We want audiences to come through the doors of Lighthouse and have a wonderful night of entertainment. Have some laughs, shed a few tears, and we really look forward to having bums in the seats.”

Come Down From Up River runs in Port Dover from May 17 to June 3, opening on May 18. It then moves to Port Colborne’s Roselawn Theatre, where it will run from June 7 to 18. For tickets and more information, visit