Nairn as brilliant on stage as behind the scenes
Orangeville Banner By James Matthews. October 19, 2015
David Nairn, Norm Foster and Perrie Olthuis in Theatre Orangeville's production of Jonas And Barry In The Home. 2015

People saw David Nairn wearing tights last fall. Green tights with funny shoes. It was part of a Christmas elf costume. He looked the part of an elf, too. Convincing in his way with his honest smile and true laughter. Those Nairn helped chuckle and laugh last December may have thought they’d seen Theatre Orangeville’s artistic director at his funniest and most amiable. They should see him in the premiere production of Norm Foster’s new comedy, Jonas and Barry in the Home, at the Town Hall Opera House before its run ends Nov. 1.

Nairn is hilarious, and that’s not an overstatement. People use words without really thinking about how the words are being used. But Nairn is hilarious playing the Barry Butterworth character to Foster’s Jonas Ainsworth. And the proof of that, the most genuine testament of such things, is in an audience’s laughter.

Perrie Olthuis consumed the audience in the role of Barry’s daughter, Rosie Voight. She is at times gob-smackingly funny as the concerned daughter of an elderly father and the dialogue they toss between them. She is at other times heartrendingly convincing as a jilted woman whose husband has run out on her with a tarted-up trollop.

Jonas and Barry in the Home, directed by Derek Ritschel, is the story of a friendship between two gentlemen new to the world of assisted living. Barry and Jonas meet as residents of Gateway Gardens. Rosie is the director of Life Enrichment at the seniors’ home and secured her father a room there so she could keep an eye on him.

Barry is a 67-year-old divorced retired dentist with a family history of heart problems. He’s convinced he’s living on borrowed time as he’s already lived longer than some relatives whose hearts had attacked them.

Jonas is a former actor and songwriter. He’s been living off the royalties from a hugely popular song— the only song he ever wrote, in fact. “My field is life,” Jonas says. “Embracing life.” Perhaps that’s a bit of foreshadowing there, a hint of a secret within the character. Or maybe he’s a pompous former actor trying to sound relevant long after the final curtain drop.

Barry, the “realist” curmudgeon, believes holding down a job and supporting a family is a life well spent. But that’s only one dimension of the character.

The men toss about rat-tat-tat dialogue believably to the ear. Words given life as only Foster could write dialogue and script pauses, the beats in speech we all do and hardly even notice in ourselves.

These are characters on stage that are made real by such a triumvirate of talent it would be shameful for people to miss. With no intention for hyperbole (that’s such a highfalutin’ word), Jonas and Barry in the Home is one of those too few scripts, rare productions that will turn first-timers into theatre fans.