REVIEW: Audience in good company with Foster's latest
'Halfway There' brought to life in first-rate production
Halfway to the North Pole
H

Halfway There features a cast of likeable and relatable characters brought to life by Kirsten Alter, Lisa Horner, Sheila McCarthy and Helen Taylor. Darren Keay (not shown) equally shines as a fish-out-of-water new doctor in town.

Niagara This Week - St. Catharines

MBy Mike Zettel cCarthy and

ST. CATHARINES Stewiacke is a small town in Nova Scotia where everybody knows your name and just about all of your most intimate business.

And if you're in the audience of Norm Foster's Halfway There, you'll wish you could go there which, by the way, you can. It's a real place.

 

Foster's latest, which had its world premiere at The Foster Festival at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, is filled with an instantly relatable and extremely likeable cast of characters whose comic timing had the audience laughing non-stop.

It starts with Vi, Rita and Mary Ellen, played by Lisa Horner, Sheila McCarthy and Helen Taylor respectively, who gather at Junior's cafe where their friend Janine (Kirsten Alter) works.

The gals regularly gather there towards the end of the workday to gossip and gab. It doesn't take long for the audience to be drawn into their banter, as the cast, directed by festival executive director Patricia Vanstone, bring Foster's snappy dialogue to life.

Their routine is broken when a newcomer, Dr. Sean Merrit (Darren Keay) enters the diner, letting him know he's taking over from the town doctor for a month.

Much of the humour could be described as fish-out-of-water, as the doctor, recently dumped by his fiancee and looking to take a break from his life in Toronto, tries to get used to the very forward nature of Mary Ellen, Rita and especially Vi, a character Horner clearly has fun with.

A little more subdued is Janine, though it's she who catches the doctor's eye. Much of the fun in Halfway There (the title comes from the geographic proximity of the real Stewiacke) is the back and forth between the two.

Foster leans heavily on repetition to generate a lot of the laughs, and for the most part it works beautifully you'll never think of Neil Young the same way again. After a while you could see some of the jokes coming, but not in any that took away from the overall experience.

In the best Foster fashion, the play, though consistently funny from beginning to end, includes a few well placed somber moments, as the audience learns a bit more about the inside life of these characters, their fears and their pains.

Halfway to the North Pole runs until Aug. 27.

Mike Zettel is the Web editor for Niagara this Week.