...................................................Friday February 17, 2006
Bedtime Stories true to life
ASHLEY GOODFELLOW, Banner Staff Writer

Well folks, he's done it again. Norm Foster has brought us another winner -- and this time we're first in line to see it. In the world premiere of Bedtime Stories, playing at Theatre Orangeville, Foster skillfully constructs a six-tier plot, and capably delivers snapshots of life through characters that are familiar and common. It's truly an indulgence to watch six episodes of Norm Foster's work in one sitting. The play starts off in true Foster form -- sexy and wildly funny -- as we're introduced to Lou and Betsy, a middle-aged couple who have agreed to have sex on live radio for $5,000. We see some poignant moments in the next story, when two old high school friends reconnect and rekindle a moment from the past. There are lot of laughs in the third installment, when a break-in leads to some unexpected male bonding -- and even more as we meet shock rocker Tommy Quick and one of his devoted fans in the next set.

The fifth story, perhaps, brings out the biggest laughs, when the owner of a strip club tries to fire an all-too-eager exotic dancer.  
Melodee Finlay as Sandy, the accident-prone stripper, and Phi Bulani as Charlie.

The final story, although never short on comedy, takes us back to the beginning of the play and closes the adventure thoughtfully and cleverly. Sexual innuendoes are frequent throughout, and while you never see anything graphic or uncouth, the content is written with an adult audience in mind.

The play weaves itself together through the one-act stories, and as it does the audience sees more elements of human nature exposed. What I love about Foster's writing is his ability to unleash reality without being harsh or careless. And, of course, he is always doling out something entirely hysterical and true-to-life. Foster never makes the audience work too hard to find meaning or humour in a situation -- he's reliable without being predictable.

But there's nothing trivial here; each act is huge on substance. Each story is appropriately contemporary and the transitions are smooth and compatible. It's never confusing and always captivating, and the audience will eagerly anticipate the next connection.

It's obvious why Foster handpicked his cast -- Richard Bauer, Phi Bulani, Melodee Finlay, Ron Gabriel and Amy Sellors -- for the world premiere of this play. The actors handle their switches in character seamlessly, and showcase expert versatility and profound command of their talent. With depth and dimension, they successfully build their characters in a very short time, leaving a lasting impression.

It's difficult to pinpoint one performance that outshines another, but top of mind is Finlay and her portrayal of Sandy, the accident-prone exotic dancer. There's a bit of physical schtick here, but it works, and Finlay translates well as the anything-but-rhythmic, simple-minded dancer. I don't think I've ever heard an audience laugh so openly and emphatically at a Theatre Orangeville production.

Kudos, as well, to David Nairn for his masterful directing. Bedtime Stories is the most fun I've had at the theatre -- and in someone else's bedroom -- this season. And, I can guarantee you, after hearing these Bedtime Stories, the last thing on your mind will be sleep. Bedtime Stories at Theatre Orangeville runs to March 5. Adult material, not recommended for ages under 16. Call 942-3423 for tickets.