Review: On the Air is live with laughs

By Kaitlyn Clark

The Haldimand Press

PORT DOVER—Looking for a comedy you’ve never seen before? Then you want to tune in to On the Air at the Lighthouse Festival theatres.

The five-person cast showcases an eclectic assortment of personalities at WLON The Loon, “the fourth most popular local radio station in the lower south-south-east of Northlamburton County”, as it struggles to find its footing following the passing of its station manager.

There’s Alice, played by Lisa Norton, left in charge as the new station manager despite her debilitating fear of being on the air. Alice’s metamorphosis away from the awkward, bumbling duckling is done so subtly through minor changes to dress, speech, and body language that it happens almost magically beyond the audience’s perception.


She shines most in her will-they-won’t-they relationship with Matt, played by Adrian Marchuk. Son of the former manager, Matt has a big city persona as a hotshot marketing executive that is promptly brought down to earth returning home – particularly thanks to the regular digs from his Uncle Art.

David Rosser brings Art’s pretentious, overbearing personality past the stage and into the seats. While it can be hard to see past Art’s puffed-up ideas of grandeur and his fat wallet, Rosser and the creative team behind the play ensure this character has some surprise notes to be heard.

In opposition to Art’s old-school mentality is Courtney, the college intern played by JD Leslie. Courtney has a youthful energy that empowers the audience as she tells the other characters exactly what’s on everyone’s mind.

PORT DOVER—Shown in character is Buck played by Stephen Sparks and Courtney played by JD Leslie. —Submitted photo.

Finally we have Stephen Sparks as Buck, a rock n’ roller longing for the 80s but determined to live his best life despite the new wave music that crashed his career. High on life and probably something else, Buck doesn’t care what other people think and often doesn’t understand what their insult means anyways. Laugh at him or with him, either way he has the audience in stitches.

Together this motley crew proves just how beautifully weird their town is, giving the audience a feeling that an underdog champion is in the making. Playwright Ephraim Ellis is an underdog himself, as not only is this the world premiere of On the Air, but Ellis’ first play as writer rather than actor. First rejected as a TV sitcom pilot, the story was forgotten for nearly a decade in the depths of Ellis’ laptop.

“One day in 2019 I was daydreaming and pining for summer theatre … and it occurred to me, quite suddenly, that my old pilot script had a cast of quirky off-beat characters, a quaint rural Canadian setting, plenty of jokes, and plenty of heart,” said Ellis, who realized that a little editing would make his story perfect for Lighthouse. Artistic Director Derek Ritschel agreed, and, after “another four years and a global pandemic,” we all get to laugh more because of it.

Ellis added, “I can’t thank Derek and Lighthouse enough for taking a chance on me and my little story about a father and son, ambition, missed opportunities, and rock and roll.”

If this ‘little story’ is sparking your interest, trust me when I say you don’t want to miss this one. Embrace The Loon, get ready to laugh, and visit to book your tickets, with final shows at Port Dover this weekend ahead of opening in Port Colborne June 28-July 9.