Hamilton Spectator
June 23, 2010
Play worthy of Broadway
Gary Smith

What: Looking

Where: Lighthouse Festival Theatre, Market Street, Port Dover

When: Now through July 3 Tickets: $32, youths under 21 $15 Call: 1-888-779-7703

Norm Foster's never been funnier. His comedy Looking will have you falling out of your Lighthouse Festival seat. But that's not the whole thing. Canada's most popular playwright has also never been warmer, sweeter and more wildly romantic.

That's what Looking is -- a romantic comedy about love, sex and the whole damn thing. It's about four lovable losers looking for love in all the wrong places. It's also about finally finding that love and, sadly, almost not recognizing it. Fortunately, Foster's quartet of onlookers enter the mainstream of romantic encounter and learn to accept love before it's too late.

Val and Nina go out on a blind date with Matt and Andy. Val is looking for a nice guy who will make her feel good. Nina isn't quite so picky. She's looking for someone who will take her to bed. Nina can sleep with a guy and not care whether he stays for breakfast in the morning. She's too afraid of her feelings to tap into something that gets too personal. Val has to care. She's afraid of disappointment, afraid of being hurt, too sweet and vulnerable to be anyone's one-night stand.

The guys they hook up with also have their problems. Andy is a sad sack of a man who has lost the battle of the bulge. He's occasionally a tad brash, but underneath he's as lovable as the Cowardly Lion. Matt is more affable and quick-witted but he's prone to fears and insecurities that have grown with him over the years.

These characters are pretty much stock items for Norm Foster. The thing is, though, with Looking he has made them touch us deeply in a way he seldom has before. This is humour underscored by pain. Foster's play reminds us love is not just the province of the young. And sex? Well, all the grey-haired folk around me knew all about that and still seemed to have a very healthy interest in it. If you're past 40 and unattached, you will probably recognize something of yourself in Foster's wonderful play.

It helps enormously, of course, that director Chris McHarge and his terrific cast have given the play such a loving production. Melodee Finlay is sweet, tempting and always adorable as Val. Heather Hodgson, all surface security, finds the roiling inside fears of Nina. Neil Foster is so needy underneath that masculine coat of armour Matt displays to the world. And Ralph Small is so perfect as Andy it's difficult to imagine anyone else playing this central role.

Eileen Earnshaw-Borghesan's set is perfect, allowing skyscrapers and highrises to surround the characters, sometimes smothering them with their lofty towers, sometimes allowing them to escape into rivulets of busy streets.

Port Dover's wonderful production proves comedy doesn't have to disconnect itself from everyday living to be funny. Go see Looking. This production also proves a relatively small regional playhouse in a lakeside town in southern Ontario can produce work worthy of Broadway.