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Thursday, August 27, 2015

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Tony Award-winning comedy stars Canadian actors

Tags: Arts
Linda Kash, left, and Sarah Orenstein

Despite decades of acting in film, stage and television, Montreal-born actor Linda Kash is best known as the Philadelphia Cream Cheese angel in Kraft television commercials, for the past 11 years.

Kash, 52, trades in her halo to be a funny mother in the Studio 180 Theatre comedy God Of Carnage, now playing through Dec. 15 at the Panasonic Theatre.

Originally written in French by Yasmin Reza in 2006, the comedy was translated into English by Christopher Hampton and won a 2009 Tony Award for best play while on Broadway for two years. The plot centres on a schoolyard fight between two boys and the two sets of parents who meet to resolve the problem between the boys.

“The play has the four adults who aim to have peace and friendship. But, as the story evolves, the adults put away the masks of civility and start to lose their tempers and behave like children. We end up sparring about issues centring on racial prejudice, homophobia and women’s issues in ways to provoke the audience to laugh because the characters go to such extremes,” Kash said.

“My character, Veronica, is liberal, wrote about Darfur and is so much fun to play. One may think of the play as an update of television situation comedy series such as All In The Family or The Simpsons, because the audience has no idea what the characters are going to say.”

Also starring in God Of Carnage is Sarah Orenstein, a veteran actress who has played at the Shaw Festival for 13 years. Orenstein plays Annette, a woman who lives off the financial success of her husband.

“Annette is hilarious, and has some funny scenes that the audience won’t forget. It’s an honour to work with our cast, and working with Linda is so much fun,” Orenstein said.

Kash has been adept at comedy for decades, starting as part of the famed Second City comedy troupe in Toronto, working with Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin.

As is the case with many Canadians who excelled in comedy, Kash went to Hollywood for seven years to fast track her career in 1993. She portrayed funny characters in many highly acclaimed  television situation comedy series, including Ellen, Everybody Loves Raymond, Seinfeld and many others.

Surprisingly, Kash left Hollywood in 2000 when her career was blossoming and returned to Toronto to resurrect her career.

“It was a personal choice for me to return to Canada. I could have continued in Hollywood, but felt that I would have more of a family life back in Toronto. I have no regrets and am lucky to have continued my career here.”

Kash may have been born to be onstage, being the daughter of famed Canadian opera singer Maureen Forrester and conductor/violinist Eugene Kash.

“My four siblings found it normal to be travelling and to have parents in show business. My mother performed all over the world and would do over 100 concerts each year. It was natural for my brother Daniel [an actor] and for me to have a strong desire to be on stage.”

Forrester, an acclaimed Canadian opera singer, was named to the Order Of Canada and the Canadian Hall Of Fame, and was awarded 20 honorary degrees from the most prestigious universities in the world, among other citations.

Forrester converted to Judaism to please her in-laws when she married Kash in 1957.

“My father and mother fell in love soon after they met. Their life together was like a tale from a romantic movie. However, my father’s family would have been against the marriage if she did not convert to Judaism. She was concerned about being Jewish enough to raise us as Jews, and we know everything about our heritage,” Kash said.

Among her many roles, Kash relished playing memorable Jewish characters over the years, among them Sarah Glick in the  television series Max Glick, Carol Goldstein in Robson Arms and Dr. Silverstein in Less Than Kind, a television series about a Jewish family in Winnipeg.

Being immersed in performing has also helped Kash cope with tragedy. She was a caregiver for her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease until her death in 2010.

Kash was starring in Neil Simon’s Lost In Yonkers at the Jane Mallet Theatre on May 18, 2012, when she learned that her husband, actor Paul O’Sullivan, had died in a car accident that day near their home in Peterborough, Ont.

“It was a shock, as Paul was beloved by everyone in show business. We knew each other from our days with Second City and worked together in Peterborough, establishing a performing arts academy there.”

Kash has three daughters and is raising them in the Jewish tradition, while living on a farm near Peterborough. She is also a co-host of a morning drive radio show there.

“There’s a vibrant, if small, Jewish community there, and I enjoy living there, even if it is a long commute to Toronto,” she said.

Linda Kash and Sarah Orenstein star in God Of Carnage, a Studio 180 Theatre production, playing now through Dec. 15 at the Panasonic Theatre, 651 Yonge St., in downtown Toronto. For tickets, call 416-872-1212, or go to ww.­studio180theatre.com

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