Norm Foster’s World Premiere ‒ The Writer
by Mike Keenan
Yes indeed, it’s already season number four at the Foster Festival, which celebrates prolific Canadian playwright Norm Foster’s endearing comedies. This season, Foster has penned two newbies for world premieres at the PAC ‒ “The Writer” and a musical, “Beside Myself” following last season’s two new plays ‒ “Renovations For Six” and “Come Down From Up River.”
“The Writer,” Foster’s 60th play, makes for compelling viewing, the story of Donald Wellner a renowned playwright and Pulitzer Prize winner and his son Blake, a common travel writer/food reviewer who literally roams the earth and just doesn’t measure up to the old man, or does he?
This new work typifies Foster’s trademark “Humour with Heart” with riveting dialogue between Guy Bannerman (Donald) and Jamie Williams (Blake) who occupy the minimalist stage for the entire production. For not one second does our attention waver as Foster astutely explores the intricate bond between father and son with a surprise ending that forces everyone to re-examine their take on the delightful dueling duo.
Guy Bannerman, the Shaw Festival veteran actor who has appeared in over 4,000 performances, brings gravitas to his role as a father with a dark secret that he cannot reveal under normal circumstances, and Jamie Williams, who has performed in 15 Foster productions, adds tender pathos as he yearns for love and understanding from his father.
Patricia Vanstone is the capable director, Peter Hartwell (Shaw & Stratford), set & costume designer and Chris Malkowski, lighting designer. The script is tight, often hilarious and equally captivating as it zeroes in on the father-son relationship, a delicate balancing act with the aging paternal care-giver ultimately switching roles as memory weakens and he is placed in a nursing home with not much to anchor his hopes other than a bottle of scotch.
Foster is so talented that he adroitly assigns lines to an unseen lady next door in the nursing home, a silly sexual predator who has the house howling with laughter.
In her program notes, Patricia Vanstone explains that the story is primarily one about family, a father who consumes all of the oxygen in their relationships and a son who diligently acts as go-between for the estranged wife and daughter, and a sharp commentary on the illusory concept of fame.
Executive Director of the Festival, Emily Oriold, points out that “with three sparkling seasons under our belt we are thrilled to be once again bringing our audiences 2 Norm Foster World Premieres in our 2019 Season! Our audiences are the first in the world to see a new Norm Foster hit. That’s pretty special.”
After watching “The Writer,” I heartily agree. And I thoroughly recommend it.
More Festival information is available at: https://www.fosterfestival.com/site/season-2019-norm-foster-festival
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