Arts & Entertainment.........Saturday July 4'th, 2009
Funny, sexy and man-friendly? Look no further
 
by Lynn Peppas for The Tribune
 

PORT COLBORNE -- Showboat festival's latest production, Looking, by Canadian playwright Norm Foster, is everything you'd want in an adult romantic comedy. It's smart, sexy and, most of all, extremely funny. Ladies note: This is a play that the guys in your life are going to love too. If you're looking for an entertaining two hours of theatre, look no further.

The play is about four singles, two women and two men, who are each looking for some kind of relationship. Val (played by Astrid Van Wieren) is a divorced single who hasn't had a date in six years. Her best friend Nina (played by Anita La Selva) looks in the dating classified pages on her friend's behalf. The ad she answers is Andy's (played by Bruce Thompson). They set up a blind date but, to buffer the situation, Val brings along Nina and Andy brings along his best buddy Matt. What happens next makes for a signature Foster comedy and, in my opinion, nobody writes it better than this Canadian playwright. Foster takes the awkward situation of a blind date and turns it into a good two-hour laugh fest, with some serious self-discoveries thrown in for good measure.

It's a fabulously funny script of lightning-quick paced dialogue loaded with original, sexual innuendoes that are so clever they may make you wonder why you didn't think of them first. In some comedies, the jokes feel canned -- like you have heard them before or -- worse -- you can see them coming from a mile away. But Foster's Looking is always so fresh it almost seems in the moment -- the way a good play should.

Of course, it's the actors who make or break a script, no matter how terrific the writing. This foursome makes Looking a hilarious theatrical romp. Good comedians worth their weight in salt know you cannot flub a single word or the lines lose their punch. These actors are spot-on with their lines and pacing. For all of its adult fun and games, there are some tender, and serious moments in this play that make for poignant, emotionally wrought acting. The characters discover that what they think they are looking for in a relationship and what their heart is looking for, may be two different things.

 
Craig Mason and Anita La Selva
 

Some surprising twists and turns of heart give the play an ending that rings realistic and true. La Selva and Mason can play it so cool and turn up the heat of passion in a lusty, (but always tastefully done) record-breaking time. Van Wieran brings a playful energy to the stage and Thompson's acting gives new meaning to "puppy dog" eyes. It's a well cast group with tons of chemistry and credible acting skill.

Directed by Thom Currie, in Roselawn's unique, theatre-in-the-round, the intimate stage setting seems absolutely essential to this performance. It's difficult to imagine it being done as effectively any other way. The setting is very basic but a few props move the action from a bar, to a jazz radio station, to outside the door where the date ends (or just begins). There are a few, really original scenes where theatre-in-the-round really makes this setting work brilliantly. For example, at one point, the four actors are talking to their best friends on the telephone about how they feel about their blind dates. While the two conversations start out as very contradictory to one other, they end up in verbal synch. This is just one marvellous theatrical stage trick that adds laughter and richness to this performance.

What really strikes home in this performance is how much fun the men are having. This is a terrific, entertaining, very funny and very sexy play. Great acting and directing, in an original setting makes Foster's Looking a play not to miss.

Looking runs until July 18. Afternoon and evening shows play fWednesday to Sunday. Tickets are $27 for adults, with discounts for seniors and students. Call the Showboat box office at 905-834-0833 or 1-888-870-8181. Visit www.showboattheatre.ca.