Halifax Chronicle-Herald
Mrs. Parliament’s Night Out rewarding, funny
Sheila McCarthy, as Teresa Parliament, meets Steve (J.D. Nicholsen) for an illicit tea and apple crisp, encountering her neighbour, Mr. Lewicki (Wade Lynch) in Neptune Theatre's premiere of Norm Foster's comedy, Mrs. Parliament's Night Out, running to Feb. 19. (ERIC WYNNE / Staff)

Mrs. Parliament’s Night Out is a wonderful, life-affirming new play by Canada’s comedy darling Norm Foster.

Running at Neptune Theatre to Feb. 19, it stars award-winning Canadian film, TV and stage actor Sheila McCarthy as a darling, disenchanted housewife who sets out to find herself after her husband forgets their 32nd wedding anniversary.

McCarthy’s Teresa is an adorable, innocent woman in her 50s. She is easily shocked by risque lingerie but charmingly direct and open with everyone, from junkies to a forbidding singing teacher.

Urged by her grocer to spice up her life, she goes from camera club to salsa to bowling to archery with hilarious results. However, Foster goes deeper than antics to examine the nature of human relationships and the self, given the shortness of our lives.

He creates a delightful community of peripheral characters who support and "teach" Teresa on her journey, in particular the grocer Mr. Marx, who gives her direct, atypical advice in his empty health food section, and the crusty old neighbour, Mr. Lewicki, who can’t admit he’s struggling with his own life change.

Bill McFadden as Mr. Marx and Wade Lynch as Mr. Lewicki give their well-written characters a remarkable, caged warmth and realism. These two men, who form an unlikely bond, are the wise men of the play. They’re also very funny and all their scenes are a joy to watch.

Directed by Miles Potter, Mrs. Parliament’s Night Out has superb comic timing and a balance between joy and distress. Potter is blessed with a cast anchored by McCarthy’s deft and loveable performance as Teresa.

J.D. Nicholsen cuts a very fine 50-something romantic figure, and a local trio of top actors, Marty Burt, Francine Deschepper and Sherry Smith, revolve skilfully through a range of characters.

Particularly memorable are Deschepper’s loud, cheerful and sporty Myrna, who befriends Teresa at wine-tasting class, and Smith’s gum-chewing, disenchanted waitress, as well as her comic turn as Mrs. Lewicki.

Marty Burt plays the selfish, thoughtless husband in this play and it’s a tough role because the husband, as Foster writes him, is such a dolt; it’s obvious he’s not worthy of his wife. They have a very traditional marriage where she stays home all day and cooks, and he comes from work complaining about how tired he is and asking her what’s for dinner.

I find this dynamic hard to believe 50 years after women’s liberation but I may be naive (or lucky).

When the husband finally clues into the fact his wife is acting weird, Burt is able to give him more dimension.

Mrs. Parliament’s Night Out is episodic like a TV show and set and costume designer Patrick Clark’s clever and timeless design recalls TV and window screens.

Layers of sliding screens, a few props and non-traditional lighting establish the places for Teresa’s adventures, from Mr. Lewicki’s outdoor perch to a 1950s-style diner. The lighting, designed by Leigh Ann Vardy, is kept buoyant in greens, pinks, blues and purples. The music between scenes is jazzy and jaunty befitting a comedic journey through life.

Foster demonstrates his gift for one-liners and situation comedy that reflects ordinary-lived experience. This rewarding, funny play, running at two hours and 20 minutes with intermission, gallops to a warm-hearted, communal conclusion.

By ELISSA BARNARD Arts Reporter | Theatre Review