(Rob Tymec performing as television anchor Carmen Heboptoe driving home after work in Theatre In the Gallery’s comedy Master Of Squirrels at the Walkerville Artists’ Co-op in Windsor, Ontario, on Saturday, September 7, 2019. Photo above by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.)
Dusk is just settling in over Walkerville. Comic performer and writer Rob Tymec is stationed at the Walkerville Artists’ Co-operative in the famed Windsor suburb’s section of Wyandotte Street and is about ready to open the curtain, so to speak, on the inaugural performance of Theatre In the Gallery’s rollicking comedy Master Of Squirrels. It is a subtly dark one-man comedy written with exceptional skill by local playwright Joey Ouellette.
Tymec admits to suffering more pre-show butterflies than usual. This, he puts down to being a bit tired. It doesn’t show as he launches into his character, locally famous Channel 9 television’s news anchor Carmen Heboptoe doing the news.
He reads in the time-honoured tradition of newscasters, succeeding with an authoritarian style making things seem more ominous than their real nature. One story reveals the Chrysler company’s plan to sell mini-vans with no wheels in the belief its customers are ready for backyard vans they can enjoy without having to drive the thing.
Tymec is flying solo and in true style there is nothing holding him back. His brand of levity has no barriers as he moves about the front of the gallery and into the audience. There is a comic gem in every line whether a double entendre, an amusing political comment about a certain current prime minister, or explaining situations that are just plain funny. Like his character so afraid he rubs paprika all over his body before leaving the television station.
Apparently, it is to ward off squirrels. This is the kind of life Heboptoe leads, famous on the small screen and irrational behind the scenes, although his fear was earned honestly enough, by an attack by the bushy-tailed rodents in his youth.
His formative years were spent without parents. They abandoned him in a Walmart. Store staff found him and brought him to the baby section where he lived for four years before being adopted by a store employee.
One of his newscast stories catches his interest. The Windsor Squirrel Bandit has struck again, cleaning out another bank. With a modus operandi of hiding trained thieving squirrels under a trench-coat the bandit enters a bank and then releases the squirrels who make off with the contents of the bank’s customers’ wallets and purses.
It turns out, Heboptoe has been following the bandit, pasting newspaper clippings and other artifacts on his bedroom wall. He is determined to catch the perp himself but before he can, he meets a mysterious woman with a German accent in his apartment building’s elevator. She claims to be his long-lost sister Ingrid and reveals she is on to him and his plan to corner the WSB.
Later, Ingrid, after doing some research, is certain the bandit is Heboptoe’s unknown twin brother Ivan. It is rare for a news reader to get personally involved in one of his news stories. Because of this rarity, one can only assume things are not going to go well, and, right on schedule, they don’t.
In a pre-show question period with the audience Tymec is asked how an actor rehearses for a one man show. Does he practice bits of the play at his home? He affirms and then adds that while he can do parts here and there, there is no substitute for a mandatory full dry-run performance which can often lead to changing a few lines or shifting things here and there.
The result is a masterful night of uncomplicated but extremely uncompromising hilarity that at one point ends up with Heboptoe standing in the street-facing window of the gallery wearing little more than his undershorts at about the same time two women walk by. Tymec smiles, it isn’t often a one-man play suddenly adds a couple of extra impromptu characters.
There is no question, the combination of Tymec and playwright Ouellette is golden. In fact, Tymec handles his lines so well it almost appears they were self-written. Local actor and audience member Eric Branget tells Eyes on Windsor that Ouellette is simply a master at writing lines for Tymec.
The Master of Squirrels will run for two more Saturdays, September 14 & 21 at 8pm, at the Walkerville Artist Co-Op, 1974 Wyandotte Street E. It is a delightful way to spend a night.
Tickets are $15 for adults, and $10 for students and seniors. For more information call 226-344-3814 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tymec advises that, “no squirrels were harmed in the production of this show. Although we tried.”
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.