Friday, 8 November 2013

Opening Night: Thistle Theatre offers up chuckles with Foster Play

Opening Night
Thistle Theatre
Written by Norm Foster
Directed by Ed Williams
Produced by Ann Parker
Stage Management by Dave Parker
November 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16 at 8 p.m.
Sunday November 10 at 2 p.m.
Approximate running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes (with one interval)
If you’ve ever doubted that Norm Foster is true theatrical royalty – in Canada and well beyond – then check out Thistle Theatre’s delightful rendering of his wonderfully engaging Opening Night.
A couple of minutes into the production and you’ll see why Foster has the unchallenged knack for tackling his subject matter with sharp humour and even the occasional touch of romance. His characters are broadly drawn and the plotline filled with snappy, often spicy dialogue, with the end result being a thoroughly entertaining evening of belly laughs.
Director Ed Williams gets it spot on, leading his company of eight actors through this delightfully silly play at a snappy pace. The focus is on an evening of theatre that goes radically wrong even before the curtain rises, so proper timing from the onset in an integral part in the success of the venture. Thistle Theatre delivers in fine style.
Set in the Charles Killian Theatre on the opening night of Whisper on the Wind, a standardized Canadian play about a farm family, directed by one Richard Hyde-Finch (Peter Johnson) and starring a pompous old-school actor Clayton Fry (Don Van Galen) and a gold-digging talentless actress Libby Husniak (Fern Pridham).
Ruth (Elizabeth Williams) and Jack (Al Leitch), neither of them avid theatregoers, are attending the production to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. She is eager to taste the tempting cultural waters, while he would dearly love to be home watching the seventh game of the World Series.
Desperate out-of-work actor Michael (Peter Fleming) nervously hovers about the VIP longue, downing numerous glasses of champagne being served him to by bartender/aspiring actor Tom (Garry Atkinson). An impatient pompous and self-important Richard is busy drinking, while clumsily dismissing his girlfriend art director Cilla’s (Jennea Smith) accusations of his affair with the line-fumbling Husniak.
While playfully poking fun at both theatrical insiders and outsiders, Foster even takes a self-deprecating moment to have a little chuckle at his own expense with the clever little observation, “No, it’s not a comedy, it was written by a Canadian.”
The cast tackles the offering with gusto. Even though there are some obvious stereotypes, there are several standout moments along the way.
Leitch catches his character’s cluelessness with precision; Williams shines as she valiantly tries to climb the cultural ladder; Johnson epitomizes theatrical pomposity; Atkinson’s eager beaver Tom is a delight; Smith’s inquisitive Cilla is wonderfully bitchy; Van Galen’s is ideal as the hand-kissing windbag with a half-baked mid-Atlantic accent; Pridham’s devious young diva in a trance is a hoot and Fleming is hysterically funny as the stumbling, bumbling has-been who must deal with the realization that his real claim to acting fame is as a TV commercial socket wrench.
Even with the occasionally opening night jitters, the talented company smoothly moved past a few misplaced lines and movements with a great deal of professionalism, milking every joke and situation for full value.
A satisfying night of theatre from the always reliable Thistle Theatre, complemented by the efforts of a solid technical crew, Opening Night is a great way to lead up to the holiday season.

5/5 stars

This review appeared originally at Donald's Dish

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