Ling on Love 

Canadian everyman’s latest play explores love, marriage and everything in between

Who: Nils Ling

What: The Truth about Love and/or Marriage

Where : MY (Millennium) Place Theatre

When : Friday, Oct. 3, 8 p.m.

Tickets : $15 - $18

A toast to the everyman performer.

It doesn’t matter that they’re up on stage, they could still just as easily be your dad, neighbour, or grocery store clerk. They talk or sing about the little things that happen to all of us, and somehow, through their eyes, life becomes more interesting, more humorous and even a little bit touching. In this age of makeovers, plastic surgery and rock star fantasy camps, the everyman makes us feel good about being exactly who we are.

There are few better at the everyman game than Nils Ling, the actor, syndicated radio columnist and raconteur who will be performing his new one-man play The Truth about Love and/or Marriage next Friday at MY Place.

The play is a sequel of sorts to the wildly successful Truth about Daughters, which Ling, who calls a P.E.I. farm his home base, has toured across Canada and around the world for the past five years. Like Daughters , the new work is a one-man play, and not simply a stand-up style act of random observations. In it he plays a political columnist for a magazine ordered, to his dismay, to write a series on relationships. It’s a role that he says goes beyond his character in Daughters , which he describes as "me playing me."

"After so many years of performing Daughters I was more prepared to take some chances with the audience," Ling explains, "more trusting that the audience would stay with me for the ride."

That ride will include all the laughter Ling fans have come to expect from his attempt to decipher the gender gap, but perhaps also a few tears. Amidst the he says/she says light-hearted kookiness, the new play includes a poignant examination of true love and the quest to find it at any age.

"I’ve sprinkled through the play what I think are absolutely beautiful and, I have to point out, absolutely true love stories," says Ling. "When I heard them, or had them told to me, they resonated with me. They were, I thought, perfect examples of what we should be looking for in this life."

It’s the type of material that has the capability to draw what can best be described as a collective, lump-in-the-throat sigh from the audience, something Ling says approaches the "big laugh" on the performer’s scale of audience reactions. Although, he admits, every audience is different and he prefers not to predict or manipulate, describing his role as that of a "contractor."

"I throw it out there. I put up the building and if people like where they’re living, that’s great," he says, adding the ever-present warm chuckle.

While he claims to buck the adage and write about what he doesn’t know, namely "women", his 26-year marriage could be considered a pretty solid credential in regards to the new play.

"It’s a testament to the power of inertia," he jokes, then changes his tone. "Over that time you have plenty of opportunity to look at the things that drive men and women crazy about each other. I could do that and everybody would have a chuckle. But I also wanted, in this play, to point out that it’s worth searching for that one true love."

Love, he says, is one thing men and women have as common ground in the continual struggle for understanding, a struggle he humorously reveals through situations such as the mixed messages behind lingerie purchases. With material that often dips into his personal life, Ling says his wife is continually asked how she copes with her husband living their private life out loud. Her secret, he reveals, is that when it all comes down, it’s his wife that usually ends up with the more complimentary portrayal.

"Her response is: ‘Who usually comes out looking like the dumb one? Well he does, of course. So let’s get this straight – my husband goes on national radio, tells everybody that he’s really stupid, and gets paid for it. What wife is going to have a problem with that?’"

Deeming Whistler "the best gig in the country," Ling says he’s excited to reunite with the audience here, an audience that embraced him warmly when he first came through in 2001 with Daughters. Response to that pre-MY Place show resulted in overflow crowds, an experience he remembers fondly.

"It was at ‘Our lady of the halfpipe church’ or something like that, he chuckles. "I just loved it. It was wonderful. They had to bring in extra chairs, and make more room. I think everybody had a really good time, and afterwards I got invited back to this really cool house and got to visit with a bunch of people. It was a wonderful experience. Who in their right mind wouldn’t love this area?"

Indeed, who in their right mind wouldn’t love Nils Ling?

Catch Nils Ling’s The Truth about Love and/or Marriage next Friday, Oct. 3 at MY (Millennium) Place. Tickets $15-$18. Call 604-935-8410.

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