Fine four­some of ac­tors spends sum­mer in western cap­i­tal

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ENTERTAINMENT - Len­nie MacPher­son Set The Stage Len­nie MacPher­son, a Char­lot­te­town­based writer, ac­tor and mu­si­cian, writes theatre re­views for The Guardian dur­ing the sum­mer months. He wel­comes feed­back at mock­my­

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.

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