Long Beach, CA
Theater review: 'Looking' has critics enabling Little Fish's addiction to Norm Foster's romantic comedies
By John Farrell Posted: 05/09/2013 07:42:21 AM PDT Updated: 05/09/2013 07:42:40 AM PDT

It's got to come out in the open. Fresh air is always the best cure.

Little Fish Theatre has an addiction problem. There, it's been said. The San Pedro theater company is addicted to plays by Canada's most prolific, and comic, playwright, Norm Foster. And, with any luck, that addiction will continue to thrive.

"Looking" is the current expression of that addiction. Others have included "The Love List" and "Old Love" from past seasons.

The play opened at Little Fish last Friday and with a little luck (we're sorry to wish addiction on anyone, but) you'll go see it and become a little addicted yourself.

Foster is Canada's most-produced playwright, and, we presume, he has more shots in his locker than just funny, very funny, romantic comedies. That's for scholars to debate, and researchers to wrangle with. But the plays of his that Little Fish has offered in the past are, for the most part, delightful romantic comedies with plenty of laughs; real, well-fleshed characters; and a wicked eye for the foibles of modern life.

"Looking" is just that: four people trying to find love, romance, and sex, and having a hard time finding it with the little problems of cell phones and the like. These characters are just like you, or someone you know: not kings or princes or showgirls, but just average men and women living average lives and wanting to find a little more. Though, they are probably a lot more fun than anyone you know while they are trying.

The two women in question, Melissa Brandzel (Val) and Kimberley Patterson (Nina) are already in successful careers. Val is a surgical nurse and Nina is a cop, and they get together at the health club where they both work out.

The two men are Bert Pigg (Matt), a DJ (he prefers to be called "a broadcaster") on a jazz radio station, and David Graham (Andy) who sells storage space. They also meet at the health club. Neither couple wants to try phone dating, but Andy is talked into it by Matt, with the proviso that Matt tags along for support. Val also is talked into it, with Nina as her support.

As you must know, Matt and Nina fall into love, and bed, that night, but Andy and Val don't quite make it: there is no magic between them as Val reveals at a post-date session at the health club. There is more to come, including a dicey cell phone and a lot of talk about, well, you know.

Graham has the face of a love-lorn man, though he has proved himself a versatile actor in many roles at Little Fish. Pigg makes a perfect foil: a little taller, a little handsomer, perhaps. They make a great team.

Brandzel and Patterson are also a great team, almost finishing each other's sentences, wanting romance but loyal and very funny at once.

Stephanie Coltrin directs all this on a stage that is, thanks to recent renovations, 8 feet wider than before, with the promise of air conditioning to come. Chris Beyries designed the set: a simple workout bench on one side, a bar in the middle, and a door as well And Christa Armendariz' costumes and Darrell Clark's lighting are effective and unobtrusive.

Nothing fancy here, nothing spectacular, just Norm Foster and a chance for you to get your annual fix. Don't worry, you'll be fine and you'll want to come back for more.

Want to go? When: 8 p.m. May 17 and 18 and 23 through 25; 2 p.m. May 19. Where: Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro. Tickets: $27, $24 for seniors, $20 for students.

Information: 310-512-6030,

John Farrell is a Long Beach-based freelance writer.