'Nan Loves Jerry' (and so does Susan Kent)

Heidi Wicks
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From Dakey Dunn to Bayrone, there are strings of loveable lowlifes in Newfoundland comedy. Susan Kent is adding one more in "Nan Loves Jerry."

Meet one skeet-'stashed, windsuit-wearing, bike-riding arsehole named Jerry Pack. His 30-year-old sparingly hairy upper lip can usually be found spewing saucy observations at high school girls in between puffs of a smoke.

Susan Kent, shown as the character Jerry Pack, is adding another comic lowlife to the existing contingent that graces Newfoundland and Labrador's comedic stage. Kent's one-woman play opens Wednesday at the LSPU. Submitted photo

From Dakey Dunn to Bayrone, there are strings of loveable lowlifes in Newfoundland comedy. Susan Kent is adding one more in "Nan Loves Jerry."

Meet one skeet-'stashed, windsuit-wearing, bike-riding arsehole named Jerry Pack. His 30-year-old sparingly hairy upper lip can usually be found spewing saucy observations at high school girls in between puffs of a smoke.

But Kent has a great deal of love for the latest louse of local farce.

"The inspiration for the entire show comes from a lot of different places," she says. "For Jerry himself, it began based on one individual who I knew as an acquaintance when I was younger. We weren't friends, but he was a guy who would come around when I was like, 14 or 15. Maybe he didn't have any designs on us (she and her best friend), but I have my doubts. At first it was like, 'Oh an adult who's nice!' - we were kind of outcast girls who'd hang out on our own and stuff. As time went on, we became aware that it was a bit creepy."

There is definitely an element of creepy in Jerry (he bawls things like, "I'm just tellin' ya, ye got a nice hole!" to girls in the street).

Something deeper

But, Kent is perceptive and sensitive enough to see that there's usually something deeper within individuals who bawk such ignoramus comments.

"I have compassion for anybody who doesn't have an adult relationship with themselves," she says.

"Jerry is the kind of guy who doesn't get the difference in right and wrong, in certain circumstances. He'll be after a young girl, and not think anything of it. It's just, 'Well, she seems to like me and I like her, so what's the problem?' - it's not something that I condone at all," she laughs, "but I do feel badly for someone who doesn't have a measuring yard for something like that."

Though there may be an inkling of tragedy in a character like Jerry, don't be misled - this show is three-quarters comedy.

The one-woman play is part of Resource Centre for the Arts' SOS (Significant Others Series), and Kent's is the second performance this season.

The play follows Jerry as his Nan, who helped rear him, breaks her leg. Jerry must then disrupt his privileged life to move into the senior's complex to take care of her. But as time goes on, Jerry and Nan grate on each others nerves - and instead of healing up, Nan mysteriously begins worsening."

"In this case, he's been catered to all while he was growing up," Kent elaborates. "He's never had to fold his own laundry, never had to wash a dish - he's always had that done for him. So, suddenly, he has to do all this, yet he still expects Nan to make him a microwave pizza (even though she's half crippled)."

Throughout the trials and tribulations of geriatric care, Jerry does learn something. But don't expect any cloud-parting, halleluiah-chorus epiphanies. Jerry fundamentally remains the same guy.

"I'm just not a big fan of those kind of unrealistic (outcomes)."

Keep your eyes peeled for future Jerry episodes. Kent and filmmaker Jordan Canning produced a six-minute video on YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQnyjrR32zU), providing a glimpse into the unique world and mindset of Jerry.

"In terms of a web project, we're trying to make webisodes, so there'd be a short series about Jerry on the Internet," Kent says.

"We're investigating different ways that can happen right now - it might be YouTube if we do it all on our own, but if we do end up getting some kind of larger support, it could be through some other website."

She also recognizes the immense value of programs like SOS, which provide considerable insight and opportunity towards developing characters into more complete, palpable beings who will resonate deeper with audiences.

"Sherry (White) as a director is incredible. Pushing me to find deeper and deeper places where these characters live. These things have been afforded to me through RCA. It's an amazing program because you can't always go out there with a perfectly polished thing. It's a real stepping stone opportunity, because it's not a show with a full run and a full budget - it's a way to find your voice in an environment that's very supportive," she says.

Finally, Kent agrees, that it's always important to inject some element (no matter how small) of drama into her comedy writing.

"It's always important for me to do both," she clarifies, "because everything is about life. Any story - a comic book, a movie, going to see standup comedy, reading a piece in the newspaper, watching reality TV - anything that people invest their time in to watch as entertainment, always is about relationships between people.

"It's about the important and the not so important things. It's about the truth and hardship and love, but also about hilarity. Even the most tragic things in life can be hilarious.

"Most of the things I've worked on have to have both of those elements."

Catch "Nan Loves Jerry" at the LSPU Hall, opening Wednesday. Proceeds to benefit The CAPE Fund. A Saturday matinee on May 24 begins at 2 p.m. Call 753-4531 for ticket info.

heidirwicks@gmail.com

Organizations: Resource Centre, Significant Others Series, CAPE Fund

Geographic location: Newfoundland

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