Wellington Advertiser
REVIEW: World premiere of Jonas and Barry in the Home a riot
by Chris Daponte ORANGEVILLE, October 25, 2015
Norm Foster, Perrie Olthuis and David Nairn in Theatre Orangeville's production of Jonas And Barry In The Home. 2015

- A comedy about infidelity, divorce, abandonment, aging and death? Those lucky enough to see Theatre Orangeville’s production of Jonas and Barry in the Home will discover that under the guidance of playwright Norm Foster, those seemingly antithetical concepts can combine to produce a very funny and genuine live theatre experience.

In the world premiere comedy David Nairn plays Barry, a retired dentist living in Gateway Gardens, an assisted living home for seniors. He is admittedly too young to be in the retirement facility, but has made the move - or so it seems - to appease his daughter Rosie (played by Perrie Olthuis), who works at the home.

Barry and Rosie bicker often, but obviously appreciate being close to one another. Enter Jonas (Foster), a charismatic former stage actor who at first glance also appears too young and virile to be living in the home. Jonas and Barry get off to an inauspicious start after Jonas makes an off-colour remark about Rosie’s attractiveness, but it’s not long before the two become fast friends.

Early in the relationship Jonas teases Barry about keeping secrets - after all, no one can be “just a dentist” - but as the relationship evolves, it seems Jonas may be the one playing his cards close to his chest.

The play is a roller coaster of emotions, evoking uncontrollable laughter one moment and profound sadness the next. The personal conflict between Rosie and Barry may have audience members shifting uncomfortably in their seats at times, but it is integral to the story and the development of the characters. Besides, the tense moments are overshadowed by the familiar Foster benchmarks of candour and comedy.

It should be noted the set and lighting design, by Beckie Morris and Rebecca Picherack respectively, are fine complements to the play.

Foster, Nairn and Olthuis have such remarkable chemistry it’s hard to imagine director Derek Ritschel having too much to do. As is often the case with productions penned by Foster, the beauty of the words, fluidity of the script and depth of the characters surely leaves little difficulty for those tasked with delivery and direction.

That said, the performances from all three players are remarkable. Olthuis seems perfectly cast as Rosie, particularly during the aforementioned difficult scenes, in which she adeptly relays the emotional wounds inflicted by the men in her life.

Foster, whose acting talents are often overshadowed by his prolific career as a playwright, is hilarious as Jonas, whose infectious enthusiasm has a profound effect on Barry.

Nairn is superb in one of his finest acting performances over the last decade at Theatre Orangeville, where he is best known as artistic director. He and Foster are afforded the bulk of the play’s punch lines, but it is in the tender moments that Nairn truly shines (most evident during a touching story about a fishing trip Barry had with his father as a young boy).

Audiences will surely relate to the characters and their individual struggles to move on after having loved and lost - whether it’s the fear of being alone or rejected, or needing someone to snap them out of it when self-doubt creeps in. At times during the preview performance on Oct. 15 the actors could have paused a moment longer to let laughter subside. But overall, there is very little, if anything, not to like in Jonas and Barry in the Home. It is live theatre of the first order; equal parts hilarity and heartache. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Jonas and Barry in the Home plays five shows a week until Nov. 1. For tickets call 519-942-3423 or 1-800-424-1295 or visit www.theatreorangeville.ca. October 23, 2015