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Last updated at 7:58 AM on 21/01/07  

IDEALISTS: Leon (Robin Ward, right) and Bill (Bill Carr) in a scene from Neptune Theatre's The Love List. (Photo: SABRENA MacKENZIE)
Gotta love this List print this article
Foster's comedy deceptively light

The Daily News

The Love List by Norm Foster. Directed by Ron Ulrich at Neptune's Fountain Theatre until Feb. 11. ****

If Neil Simon and Camille Paglia rewrote The Bride of Frankenstein as a contemporary, three-person comedic stage play, it might just describe Norm Foster's marvellous The Love List, Neptune's sparkling first mainstage production of 2007.

Powered by a remarkably restrained, nuanced performance by funnyman - and Sunday Daily News columnist - Bill Carr, The Love List is light comedy at its most deceptively slight.

Foster - who happens to be Canada's most produced playwright and, until recently, a longtime Maritimer - is one of those rare writers who disguises his plays as mildly diverting entertainment.

Barbed wit

Behind the gentle scenarios about everyday people with everyday problems lies a ruthless intelligence armed with a barbed wit and a wicked sense of propriety.

The Love List takes as its subject men's expectations of the perfect woman. Accelerating and distorting those expectations, the play eventually reaches a richly absurd dramatic plateau by the middle of the second act. Cleverly designed as a set of themes and variations, Foster manages to reach a playful sense of self-consciousness that lets the audience in on the joke. The result is, at times, paralysingly funny.

The two other members of the cast - Robin Ward as Leon and Leisa Way as Justine - play off Carr with a certain knowing aplomb that gives the play an unexpected sense of relaxation and confidence, as if it was an after-dinner game of charades.

Most of Foster's plays are deliberately small-scale, making them ideal for community theatres and more intimate performance spaces.

Director Ron Ulrich and set director Corey Mullins manage a neatly unassuming single set of a loft-style apartment that minimizes Neptune's tall ceiling and imposing sense of space, making for a warm and inviting visual sense that doesn't get in the way of the play's pointed humour.

With only a few snippets of Frank Sinatra introducing scene changes, there's hardly any fancy lighting or sound effects. You're left with Foster's superb writing delivered by a polished cast, smartly directed by Ulrich. There's just enough room in the production for the jokes to breathe, giving several of Foster's juiciest observations full range to resonate with the audience.

Major impression

An ideal way to pass a dreary mid-winter evening or afternoon, The Love List is proof that this country's most prolific playwright has finally made an major impression on Halifax's theatrical establishment.