Fine foursome of actors spends summer in western capital
A bustle of smiling volunteers and staff brings such pleasant energy to the Harbourfront Theatre. This season, the western capital’s main stage is producing a pair of comedies, along with a host of new initiatives to engage the community.
Up first is “The Affections of May” by prolific Canadian playwright, Norm Foster. We meet the title character, Ms Affection, who has moved to the country to live more simply. Her name is actually May. I thought Foster would enjoy that joke. She’s brought her husband along to do some B&B R&D, but we quickly learn that he might not be fully invested in the venture. A couple of oddball suitors, having heard word of the fracture through the rumour mill, try to seize the opportunity. Tomfoolery ensues.
Though his work is unlikely to be studied in a classroom, Foster’s plays have been popular for decades. The man knows how to set up a gag, throw in something absurd, pepper in sexual innuendo safe enough for churchgoers and add a twist of dramatic tension. His accessible scripts operate best when the acting is crisp and big, and the direction is swift.
The ‘front, as I will affectionately call it this once, boasts an excellent company of actors for the summer. Under the intuitive guidance of director Catherine O’Brien, the funny business unfolds on a homey set. It’s the living room of an old house, brought into the early 1990s with rose and forest green, before neutrals took over our home decor magazines.
Comically, the foursome is tuned in. Marlene Handrahan is naturally likable as May. She’s cute and frustrating, whimsical and in denial. A prime single in this neck of the woods.
Enter Cameron MacDuffee as the local ne’er-do-well, Quinn. He’s awkward, fidgety and a bit naive. Or so we’re led to believe. His cask is rarely capped for long, but Quinn’s easy demeanour endears him with the audience, despite the vices.
Robert Clarke plays the smug and tactless husband-to-havebeen, Brian. His slick confidence contrasts well with the zany rural folk around him.
Gord Gammie, in particular, is wildly funny as Hank. His keen sense of delivery, peculiar mannerisms and nervous energy mesmerize. I want him to narrate my life.
Foster’s characterizations tend to be broad, but his take here on small town-ness can hit with precision, especially when talk defers to the weather.
He doesn’t set out to challenge an audience with his work, just to satisfy. And in this capacity, Foster rarely misses. Snappy performances help navigate through a few blips of dated humour, but overall, the pace and consistency had the audience giggling from curtain to curtain.