Hudson theatre debuts summer season with heart-tugging winner
Father son tale filled with laughs, remorse
Mending Fences, a play written by Canadian favourite Norm Foster, is a comedy that looks at the not-so-funny subject of absentee parenting and coming to terms with a past that can not be undone.
The play, directed by Village Theatre Artistic Director Andrew Johnston, begins as Harry (Bill Rowat) gets ready to pick up his grown son Drew (Paul Van Dyck) from a train station in rural Saskatchewan.
Harry and Drew have not seen each other in 13-years and the last time that they did, a 15 year-old Drew was being driven “back east” after his city-loving mom Lori (Melanie Doerr) admitted that she could not hack it as a farmer’s wife despite her best efforts.
Though she begged Harry to come with her and Drew, the taciturn farmer can’t imagine living away from the open fields again, so saying nothing, he lets the wife and child he loves walk out the door.
It could be the story of many fathers and sons, but the Hudson Village Theatre’s summer season opener deals with one dad and his relationship, or lack thereof, with his now-grown son.
Making up for lost time
Like many uncommunicative but likable men, Harry is helped in the emotions department by his neighbour and girlfriend, Gin, also played by Doerr (who additionally takes a turn playing Harry’s mom in flashback scenes).
All three actors draw their audience into a tale of lost chances, remorse and soul searching questions as Harry tries to find out why Drew got in touch after all these years. Throughout, the story is told with Foster’s trademark wit, zinging one-liners and sprinkling of foul language and frank talk about sex.
Doerr’s Gin is a rough and tumble girl with a heart of gold, while her portrayal of Lori, Harry’s former wife, is of a softer woman clearly out of her element in Saskatoon farm country. With chameleon like acting skill, Doerr transforms herself yet again to portray young Harry’s mother.
What should be confusing to the audience is more than believable thanks to Doerr’s clear characterizations and changes in voice, mannerisms and body language while playing the three different women. Van Dyck and Rowat, meanwhile, strike a very believable note as father and son and have great on-stage chemistry and comedic timing. Van Dyck does a fine job playing young Drew and young Harry at different times in the play, while Rowat also take a turn playing his own father in a flashback that explains quite a lot.
Despite a touchy subject matter and a meandering but captivating story line, the laugh out-loud comedy is a treat for theatre goers and sets the perfect note for what is sure to be a great professional summer theatre season in Hudson.
Those who have not made the trip to the little train station that was converted into an English professional theatre really should. You’ll be glad you did.
Mending Fences by Norm Foster will play at the Hudson Village Theatre, located at 28 Wharf Road in Hudson, until July 11.
Matinee performances begin at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, while evening shows start at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, call the theatre at 450 458-5361 or email email@example.com
Theatre goers were treated to live music outside the charming train station converted to a professional theatre.