.....................Saturday, April 14, 2007
Strong characters, steady laughs
David Nairn, Patricia Vanstone, Heather Hodgson and Norm Foster
Ashley Goodfellow, Banner staff writer

One of the great things about any Norm Foster play is his ability -- or is that reliability -- to cut to the chase, in plot, in humour and in theme. It never takes the audience long to connect with the story -- and keep laughing until the script's final word.

This rings particularly true in The Long Weekend, Foster's fall-down funny look at love, friendship and, in the most hilarious way, animosity.

The one-liners are quick and snappy, and keep rolling out at a steady pace. Jokes are cleverly recycled through the duration of the story, weaving in and out of the script and popping up unexpectedly -- each time funnier than the last.

The story, tempered with a little sex, a little sass and a lot of laughs, manages to work small shades of everyday situations into the script and plays on their familiarity.

And this is what makes the play so successful -- everyone loves to find humour in something familiar.

The play sees a successful husband and wife team, Max (Norm Foster) and Wynn (Patricia Vanstone), invite friends Roger (David Nairn) and Abby (Heather Hodgson) up to their new country home for the weekend.

From the get-go, it is made painfully clear about how Max feels about Roger, and Roger about Max -- the two only barely tolerate each other but put on syrupy exchanges for the sake of their wives, who have been friends since high school.

Roger thinks Max is a pompous show off, and Max doesn't think much of Roger and his decision to leave a career as a math teacher to write a screenplay.

But, what we quickly learn is that all that appears to be well between Abby and Wynn isn't. The two are quick to criticize one another in off-handed, undermining ways.

And the story unravels from there. Twists, turns and sharp, biting comedy turn a weekend retreat into a disastrous affair -- the gloves come off and the facade collapses. And that's only the first act.

I've always enjoyed the chemistry on stage between Foster and Nairn. The two expertly set each other up and play off of each other's cues, making the comedy seem natural and instinctive.

The audience will particularly enjoy Nairn as Roger -- especially his entrance in the second act. He fits easily into the role, and gives a solid performance.

The same could be said for both Vanstone and Hodgson -- the interaction between Wynn and Abby is perfectly uncomfortable. All of the actors shine in this play, highlighting their gift for live theatre.

Add a stellar set to this phenomenal cast and Foster's exceptional script, and what you get is a fantastic evening at the theatre.

The Long Weekend, I'm sure, will soon be a local audience favourite. When you sit down to watch a Norm Foster play, you know what you are getting -- strong characters, steady laughs and a snatch of reality. The Long Weekend is a pleasing experience all around.

The Long Weekend runs until April 29 at Theatre Orangeville.