By John Arkelian for artsforum.ca
Raconteur, storyteller, and humorist Stuart McLean is a mainstay on CBC through his weekly radio show, The Vinyl Cafe. Many episodes of the show are taped on the road, on stages across the country. On a very fortuitous Friday the 13th (in April 2012), it was Oshawa’s turn to enjoy the patented combination of engaging stories, good music, and folksy charm that are the hallmarks of McLean’s show. The heritage Regent Theater (recently bereft of its ornate plaster ceiling, alas) was filled to the brim with enthusiastic listeners. So enthusiastic were they, in fact, that sections of the show became interactive, to the apparent delight of McLean & company. In a good-natured drawl, he treated the assembled throng to three of his beloved “Dave and Morley” stories. The first was the ever-popular account of the waterslide to beat all waterslides that is assembled by neighborhood children at the urging of an elderly onlooker. The second story recounted mishap-prone Dave’s visit to the carwash with his neighbors’ pride-and-joy Lexus. Disaster ensues, of course; but, as McLean wryly noted, at least his hapless protagonist “was exceptionally clean” by the end of his ordeal. The third story was, perhaps, still a work in progress, involving the struggles of Dave’s daughter at university — with her dreaded statistics class, an eccentric professor, and his metronomically-gifted cat. The secret of McLean’s storytelling? Why, no more or less than instantly likable characters (they feel as familiar as good friends), humorous, down-to-earth, and often gently poignant situations, and impeccable timing.