The Fortunate Men of Misfortune

Greg Malone and Andy Jones rambled around the staged room – old-timey sofa sets and carefully placed urns standing stoicly on a mantle – as they rehearse for RCA Theatre Company’s upcoming premiere of Men of Misfortune. Looking good, b’ys. “Been rehearsing long?” we ask, peeking in through the door – cue the laughter. This is hour two of day one, and you’d be surprised at how it has gone so far.

Food Talk

“All we’ve talked about is what we’re getting for lunch, really,” Malone offered.

Jones laughed.  “Newfoundlanders, if we’re not talking about food we’re going to have, we’re asking what you did eat. Whatdidyouhaveforbreakfast?Lunch? and on-and-on it goes,” Jones added. The two men continue to talk about, what else? Food.

That there’s an ease between these two shouldn’t be surprising, seeing as these giants in the arts world have been at home with one another’s acting style since their early days.

Reuniting at the LSPU

The two life-long collaborators sat to share their thoughts on reuniting on the LSPU Hall’s stage  from Nov 1-10 for Men of Misfortune. Besides Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and a “bit of acting/directing here or there,” this is actually the first time the two will be starring together as a duo on stage.

There is a lot of anticipation as they prepare to star in this intense dark comic thriller (they play brothers who are uncomfortably tossed together in the family home after death), mostly because fans are used to seeing them in comedies. Steeped in Newfoundland vernacular as it takes place on Craigmillar Avenue in St. John’s, Jones and Malone both said they are excited for opening night.

“This is the first big thing where we’ve really acted together and it’s been fun. But it’s always fun, or you hope it is. Acting is something you never give up. You’re always learning, so be humble. You don’t know who will be the star of any show, so you just go in and do your best,” Malone said.

Jones nodded. “There’s no comparison out there. Theatre gives you something so instantaneous. It’s a real high, and this play is a lot of fun.” Men of Misfortune was written by Carbonear playwright Charles Picco (of Todd and the Book of Pure Evil fame) and both actors say fans are in for a treat.

“It’s two old guys duking it out onstage over their troubled past. It’s a real workout on stage and it’s fun, and a pleasure to do. Being  onstage with Andy, because we have such a history and we have a bit of short hand with each other, is great,” Malone shared.

Funny and Tragic

Jones picked up; “Newfoundlanders love a bit of dark humour, and that’s in there. It is funny, the situation is tragic, but there’s lots of humour…” “…but there’s no happy ending,” Malone said, finishing the sentence.

The men talked about the thrill of getting back on the stage at the LSPU Hall. “For me, I love the space. I think when it comes to performing, I have the hall in mind from the early days. Everyone has a good seat, it’s very intimate and the acoustics are great,” Jones said.

Malone is also looking forward to the string of shows.  “I’m thrilled to bring a great satisfying night of theatre to a home crowd.” Of course, there has to be some teasing. When asked how they hope audiences will respond, the conversation went something like this:

Malone: “I hope they have lower than low expectations. Come if you want to. It’s really no big deal.” Jones: “Actually, don’t bother coming.”  Malone: “Definitely don’t buy a ticket unless the people from the first night says a resounding;  ‘it was OK.’”

Codco Years

Since they’re being silly, the conversation easily switches to CODCO.  “I still get people talking about CODCO and the Wonderful Grand Band, especially kids. They are searching out CODCO sketches on YouTube,” Malone said.

Andy laughed, remembering a favourite skit of his; ‘Newfoundland Indoors,’ was mentioned to him recently by a young person. “It’s a spoof on Newfoundland Outdoors and their camouflage is the same as the sofa, and you don’t even need to know the parody to laugh, the comedy stands on its own.”

While CODCO won’t reunite besides a planned chat with the remaining members on a stage in Halifax, both Jones and Malone know they made an impact. “People keep saying they saw us first and if they can do it, we can do it. Jonny Harris says that the CODCO stuff was inspirational, watching Newfoundlanders being Newfoundlanders on national television,”  Malone shared.

Jones smiled. “Let’s pass the torch on. We are getting old.” Jones, who recently acted on Little Dog with Joel Thomas Hynes, said he’s proud of the work he did, they did, on CODCO. “It all holds up today. We did 63 shows, that’s a good body of work.”

While Jones says he’s often recognized from Rare Birds, every CODCO flashback or memory is welcome.  “They were good times.”

Ron Hynes, Troubadour

Bud Gaulton Photo

So what’s next for these two local legends? Jones is preparing to tour with his children’s book, Jack and the Green Man, and  Malone will be narrating Christmas Truce at The Basilica with the Atlantic BoyChoir on Nov. 17.

“Imagine! Me back in The Basilica,” Malone deadpans. There’s a flashback moment he felt compelled to share.  “When Ron (Hynes) died, what a feeling walking up the marble steps to the pulpit, Antichrist that I was, looking out over the congregation of miscreants of artists and having the place be ours. I felt like we had stormed the Bastille or something.”

Jones had his own thoughts. “That was a big deal, when Ron died.” Ron, they share, was their storyteller. He was their troubadour.

No Reunions Now

“He was the reason we put together the Wonderful Grand Band in the first place. When Ron died it was like a big lynch-pin, a marker. We are past that whole time, it’s over. Tommy dying was hard but when Ron died, that put a book end on it all. There won’t be any Wonderful Grand Band reunions without Ron,” Malone said quietly.

It was time to get back to rehearsal, or at least head out for lunch, they joke. When asked for departing notes, Malone told readers, “Come see us. People can expect a knock-down, drag-out comedy fest.” Jones had the last word.

“I hope the audience feels they saw a sharp piece of theatre. The writing is very good and it really captures St. John’s.”

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