From left, Elizabeth Huber, Sue Broverman, David King,
Sam Broverman, Wayne Nicklas, Judy Cook, Nancy Hall.
Ten old friends having dinner together around the table while the man they have gathered to celebrate, Wayne, sits in an armchair off to the side, watching the light play over the Coast mountains above Howe Sound as nourishment enters directly through a tube in his arm.
Judy packing medical supplies into the rented Ford Flex at 5AM, helping Wayne to the passenger's seat for the short drive from Grantham's Landing to the Langdale Ferry terminal. She says she thinks of it as touring, as she's done in her dance career for decades. At 6:20, the Queen of Cowichan sets sail for Horseshoe Bay, a forty minute voyage during which Wayne and Judy stay in the vehicle, as they do while they wait at HB for another ferry, to Nanaimo, a ninety minute crossing this time.
|Wayne with Nicola Cavendish, who acted with him in David King's|
"Up Island" in 2008.
Autumn colours weave through the set of The Sunshine Boys, reds, yellows, greens, browns. A gem of a production directed by Nicola Cavendish, another friend. This play at the Chemainus Theatre, starring his old pals Nick Rice and Harry Nelkin, is what Wayne and Judy have traveled all the way from Winnipeg (via Port Moody and the Sunshine Coast) to see. But first they had to check into the hotel for a rest. At 1:45, we're waiting for the Ford Flex to pull up to the stage door. Nothing. At 1:55, we have to take our places. Still nothing. At 2:00 the show must go on, and does. Oh no! After coming all this way, have they missed it? Then, ten minutes in, a door at the top back of the theatre opens and a few people are guided to their spots to watch the heart-full performances of men who have spent their lives in the theatre, just like the characters they are playing, just like Wayne. Victorious!
At the intermission, Judy explains that it wasn't the pain that started last week as esophageal cancer continued to whittle him, nor Wayne's frailty that delayed them, but a wrong turn out of the hotel parking lot.
When the lights flicker in the lobby, announcing the second act, Wayne grabs some of our arms to hoist himself up from the sofa, and takes a front row seat this time, which is easier for him. Towards the end of the play, Harry Nelkin (as Al Lewis) helps his old partner Nick Rice (playing Willy Clark) into bed and the resonances multiply as Willy, who doesn't want to accept that he may be finished, bluffs about the work he has lined up, and Al laments his family's plan to send him to a home for retired actors. Line after line as if narrated from the life of the tall, gaunt man watching from just below the stage.
Barely 48 hours after his final appearance in the theatre, the 59-year old Canadian actor, Winnipeg's Wayne Nicklas, died in hospital in Duncan, B.C.