Mending Fences corrals the heart
Posted Saturday May 23. Sarnia Observer

If the rest of the 2009 season at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia is anything like Mending Fences, they'll be in pretty good shape.

The production is, by far, the best I've seen at the theatre -- a must-see show that leaves a lasting impact -- and a perfect way to kick off the summer season.

Norm Foster's family drama had the audience in laughter, tears, then laughter again with the heartwarming story of a father who reunites with his son at the old family farmhouse after a long absence.

The renowned Canadian playwright plays the lead role of Harry Sullivan, a stubborn, often grumpy ex-farmer in rural Saskatchewan, who forms a bond with his widowed neighbour, Gin, played by Heather Hodgson.

But their quiet life is disrupted when Harry's estranged son Drew -- played brilliantly by Derek Ritschel -- arrives at the farmhouse after 13 years away.

Both men struggle to overcome their stubborn pride and get to know each other again.

Verbal volleys and flashbacks follow as Gin tries to thaw the chill between the two men. Meanwhile, Hodgson also takes on the roles of Lori, Harry's former wife, and his mother, in a number of emotional flashback scenes, and the veteran actress juggles the three roles with perfection.

Foster's signature snappy dialogue and one-liners are highlighted by deeper moments of heart-wrenching drama, ultimately connecting to each member of the audience in some way, revealing the true ups and downs of family dynamics.

The play, which premiered in 2006 in Port Dalhousie, Ont., is directed by the VPP's artistic and managing director, Robert More.

Mending Fences runs until June 6. Tickets are on sale now, and available at the VPP Box Office, by calling 1-800-717-7694, 519- 882-1221, or online at