The Foursome: A theatre in the round comedy about more than golf
by David Jacobson / Entertainment columnist / June 16, 2009
Along with Morris Panych, Norm Foster is among the most popular Canadian playwrights in the United States. Foster is a special favorite at B Street, where his “The Foursome,” set on a golf course, tees off B Street’s new season. Fortunately, this rousing comedy tells us less about golf and a lot more about the follies of the male gender. The B Street’s theater in the round works especially well to accommodate the show. Each scene begins with an approach to a new hole, and Director Elisabeth Nunziato rotates the action around the stage. After the foursome consecrates the golf course with a prayer, Ted (David Pierini), an alcoholic, pulls cans of beer out of his golf bag, offering them around although it’s 7 a.m..
MORE THAN GOLF – Donnie (John Lamb) takes a swing as Ted (David Pierini) looks on in B Street’s production of Norm Foster’s play that deals more with the follies of the male gender than the sport of golf. Photo by Jennifer Freyer

(The beer shtick suggests that Foster may identify with Ted. When asked in an interview what he drinks on opening night, Foster replied: “Sleeman's beer. And if Sleeman's not around, anybody else's beer.”)

Cameron (Greg Alexander), the sissy of the bunch and the only member of the golf club, protests that he might lose his $800 membership fee if they get caught drinking. But he acquiesces to the pressure of the others: Donnie (John Lamb), with no noticeable career except being father to five kids, and the conniving Rick (Allen McKelvey), a scheming bachelor who sells boats in Florida and is trying to peddle investments in the berries of the Brazilian pepper tree, said to get birds drunk and make them sing more.

All four were college classmates 15 years before and are drawn together by their class reunion, pretending to be loyal friends though they’ve been out of touch with each other since they graduated. To create more excitement, Rick suggests making a bet on the outcome of the game and raises the ante almost round by round.

What makes the play work, more than the storyline, is Foster’s well-timed jokes and the comic gifts of the cast. “I’m not trying to teach an audience a lesson or pass along some profound message,” Foster declares modestly, “because I don’t think I’m qualified.” But beneath the seeming lightness we discover aspects of the male gender that we may never have noticed before. During the course of the game, for instance, Cameron discovers that all three of his companions slept with the woman who was to become his wife. He’s dumbstruck, unable to summon up outrage. His silence implies that sowing (or reaping?) wild oats works for both sexes.

We also uncover oddities that never occur to most males, like how we would feel to discover that the girl we married was the least attractive to our best friends during our bachelor days. And there’s a particular goofy confession from Cameron, who reveals that during their student days he was most attracted to the frumpy, fifty-something woman who ran the campus kitchen. Though he loves all of his children, Donnie has decided that five is enough and is considering a vasectomy. The others panic, confusing the operation with castration.

One advantage of theater in the round is that we can see most of the audience from any seat. And throughout the show the women were laughing as heartily as the men. “The Foursome” could be, and has been, played solemnly, but Nunziato’s decision to use a light touch added fun to fresh insights and earned a standing ovation on opening night.

For obvious reasons, this play is suitable only for mature audiences.

“The Foursome” continues through July 26 at 2711 B St., behind the Stanford Park Baseball Field. Performances are Tuesday and Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 5 and 9 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18-$30. Call (916) 443-5300. See also