By Mike Keenan
Let’s name drop for a moment: Peter Krantz, Peter Hartwell, Jim Mezon. Actor, set and costume designer and actor/director. What do they all share in common? They are former stalwarts with the Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake. Now the talented trio have motored slightly down the road to St. Catharines to join Norm Foster’s Festival in its third year. Congratulations to Executive Director Emily Oriold and Artistic Director Patricia Vanstone who snared this group who are helping to fill seats at the inviting PAC.
Foster is a master at witty dialogue. He places people in awkward situations, and the repartees start to flow. In Wrong For Each Other, Rudy Sorenson (Daniel Briere) and Norah Case (Julia Porter) meet in a restaurant. Briere compulsively shades the truth to meet his needs. Porter detests lies. Briere’s blue collar parents own a vegetable stall at the local market. He likes rhythm and blues music. Porter’s single dad loves classical music as does she. Briere is carefree and spontaneous. Porter meticulous and managerial. Briere takes Porter to a baseball game and encourages her get into the spirit of things by shouting, so she screams, “You slut!” at a woman wearing a tank top. Obviously, they have nothing in common, but the sex is great and they fall in love.
Do opposites really attract? A recipe for disaster? Yes, but Foster always leaves us with hope. They split after three years, but in the second act, Briere artfully manages to rekindle the extinguished flame, we think.
In between, we are treated to Foster’s upbeat dialogue on a simple set, wherein a light cue suggests a flashback, and the two actors artfully time shift repeatedly throughout the play. Briere and Porter are both convincing. I heard a lady say on the way out, “He sure was cute!” Yes, the bearded Briere is attractive and the reluctant Porter falls for his humorous hyperbole, massaging the truth while Briere manages to outlast Porter’s father who favours a bassoonist over him and flings food at Briere during a dinner party.
In his director’s notes, Jim Mezon says, “Norm Foster writes us. He writes who we are, what we want and need, what we fear, what angers us, what confuses us, what gives us joy … and he does this without cynicism. His characters live in a sophisticated state of optimism. Somehow, it will work out for them … and hopefully us. It’s what we recognize in Norm’s plays, in his characters: their sense of decency, their sense of moving through their troubles towards a positive outcome. And he does it all with his extraordinary sense of humour: truly a gift from the Gods.”
I thoroughly enjoyed this play as will you. And as an extra treat, there’s now an inviting Critelli Lounge at the PAC where one is able to engage in pre and post-performance discussion. The St. Catharines’ Foster Festival is certainly gathering steam!
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