|Aug 14, 2016|
|A very different foursome: The men have left the fairway; enter the ladies|
Waterloo Region Record
By Valerie Hill
ST JACOBS — After a successful run, the comedy "The Men's Foursome" has vacated the golf-themed stage at the St Jacobs Country Playhouse and now it's the ladies' turn.
"The Ladies Foursome" premièred in 2014 at Upper Canada Playhouse in Morrisburg. In May, the comedy played at Hamilton's Theatre Aquarius with the same director, designers and cast. Why change a good thing is the theme and for a good reason.
Directed by Marcia Kash and written by Norm Foster, "The Ladies Foursome" is surprisingly different than the men's version, which was funnier. That's not to say this production doesn't have its belly laughs — it does — but for audience members coming to see the show following "The Men's Foursome," the best advice is to not make comparisons. This show has more emotional depth, more nuances in personality.
The cast is quite wonderful, each one a strong performer with excellent comedic skills as well as an ability to draw the audience into the story. Gabrielle Jones plays the flirtatious Connie, a woman who is not shy about the fact that she sleeps around. It's easy to judge the character but when she reveals something personal near the end of the play, suddenly there is understanding and even sympathy.
Karen Wood is an absolute hoot as the brassy and loud little Margot, a woman who is estranged from her family but the successful owner of a construction company. Wood is a tiny woman but she is big and bold on stage.
Stacy Smith plays Tate, a housewife with three teenage boys and a surgeon for a husband. Her life seems perfect but, of course, it isn't; as the story unfolds, Tate's frustrations roll out like a prickly carpet.
Newcomer to the Drayton stage is Carmen Grant as Dory, a former Las Vegas singer now a mother of six living with her husband in their lodge in Canada's north. She is stuck in this life and her laments are both barbed and hilarious.
What brings these women together on the golf course is the death of their friend, Catherine, a teacher who met with her fate at the top of a Ferris wheel in a lighting storm. The four friends had played a weekly golf game together for 14 years so when she died, Bonnie, Margot and Connie decided to pay tribute with a game. They met Dory at the funeral and invited her along, though she was a stranger to them, a friend of Catherine's.
Dory is mysterious. She knew Catherine through the lodge where the teacher vacationed for two weeks every year. She asks the other three personal questions about themselves, though she claims that Catherine spoke of them frequently. So why doesn't she already know the answers? Is she trying to trip them up in a lie? If so, why?
Grant, a veteran of the Stratford Festival, is very good in this role, wanting to reach out to these women yet also a bit withdrawn because she is the odd woman out.
"The Ladies Foursome" is an exploration into female relationships, something that the playwright seems to understand. There is love between them and also a sense that after 14 years, they really know each other's secrets. But do they? When Catherine's deepest secret is revealed through Dory, they are troubled that Catherine never felt comfortable enough to tell them directly.
Between the laughs, "The Women's Foursome" has a deeper message about the nature of friendship and questions how much we truly know someone.
Foster, Canada's answer to Neil Simon, knows how to write both funny and poignant and in this production, he is at his playwriting best.
Set and costume designer Douglas Paraschuk has created a warm and startlingly realistic golf course. Lighting designer Siobhán Sleath uses subtle textures to create the passage of time as the ladies move from one hole to the next by simply walking offstage and returning at a different angle. It's really quite clever, just like the play.