The Hamilton Spectator
 
Gary Smith: Warm tender comedy, The Ladies Foursome, is helmed by a great cast
April 27, 2016
 
Gabrielle Jones, Carmen Grant, Stacy Smith and Karen Wood

Get ready to tee-off for fun. After too many years Canadian playwright Norm Foster is back in the swing of things at Theatre Aquarius. I don't know why some theatre folks are snobbish about Norm. He's one of the best Canadian playwrights working in the theatre today. And when he's on form, as he is here in "The Ladies Foursome," a golf comedy with an undercurrent of emotional heartbreak, there's not much better theatre around.

God, love, sex, immortality, friendship and intimate discoveries are tossed around in this surprisingly moving comedy that never stoops to clichés, or obvious moments of character revelation.

A female foursome plays a round of golf in tribute to an old friend who has just passed away. In the conversation that carries them from green to green they confront some secrets about their lives. Foster explores, with sensitivity and wit, the nature of friendship and the way lives intersect, sometimes in ways that totally surprise us.

Originally written for four male golf buddies, the play has been rejigged for a female cast and it works brilliantly. Foster has an ear for female relationships and revelations. He approaches his characters with such warmth and love and allows us to share their world of sometimes funny, sometimes bitter heartbreaks. At the same time Foster is so in touch with the laughter and joy of life that his play blindsides you with outrageous humour and downright stirring affection. The laughs aren't just laughs. They're big laughs that continue tickling the funny bone, erupting from the throat, shaking the shoulders, long after they're lobbed home.

None of this would matter nearly as much if the play weren't acted by four stunning women who mine its humour and pathos like experts. You couldn't find a better cast anywhere for this warm and tender comedy than the remarkable Gabrielle Jones, the pixie-like Karen Wood, the wonderful Stacy Smith and the endearing Carmen Grant. What a team!

Of course it helps that Marcia Kash has directed this tender and thunderously comic play with passion and insight. It helps too that premier designer Douglas Paraschuk has provided a set and costumes that equal anything you'd see on a Broadway stage. The whole thing has such an air of perfection about it that it's darn well thrilling. I love the way the cast works so well together, supporting each other's laughs, filling the spaces between lines with telling moments and always suggesting they are truly the friends Norm Foster has written about.

Petty cavils? The play's a tad too long and there's one very funny line cadged from the vintage comedy "The Women." Intentionally? Or maybe not. And sometimes we miss a few lines here and there because the actors simply can't wait for us to stop laughing.

Mr. Foster, your play is a great big winner and it ought to be rigged out in Toronto at one of those snobbish downtown theatres, just as soon as this cast and director are available.

Gary Smith has written on theatre and dance for The Hamilton Spectator for more than 30 years. More Information The Ladies Foursome Who: Theatre Aquarius Where: Dofasco Centre for the Arts, 190 King William St. When: To May 7 Tickets: $30 to $75, 905-522-7529 or theatreaquarius.org

 

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