Friday, February 18th, 2005

Love List lets us laugh at ourselves

In the Spotlight  
Norm Foster and David Nairn in The Love List.
ASHLEY GOODFELLOW, Banner Staff Writer

They were right -- it was really, very funny. And by the audience's reaction during the opening night of The Love List at Theatre Orangeville, I know I'm not alone in my verdict.

Written by Norm Foster, the play is a clever and witty look at the possibility of finding the perfect mate through a dating service. This is what Leon (Norm Foster) is hoping for best friend Bill (David Nairn) when he purchases a Got-A-Match order form for his pal's 50th birthday. Bill, a mild-mannered statistician whose wife divorced him seven years ago on the grounds of boredom, is reluctant to list the 10 qualities he envisions in his ideal mate. With a little help, and a lot of persuading, from his cynical and candid pal Leon -- who tries to argue that large breasts would be a better quality than a sense of humour -- Bill manages to complete the love list.

This first scene sets the tone for the play, and quickly differentiates the personalities -- which couldn't be more opposite -- of these men. Expect lots of laughs and punchy banter here; Foster wastes no time drawing the audience in. The story heightens when Justine, who is strangely attuned to the love list, arrives only an hour after Leon's departure. Bill, a little unnerved by the situation, begins to wonder if Justine's presence is just another one of Leon's "presents." Nevertheless, Bill quickly falls under the spell of his fantasy-woman-in-the-flesh, but he soon learns that his idea of perfection has imperfections.

Foster embraces the role of Leon, and masterfully delivers the acerbic wit and dry humour the play thrives on. His performance is natural and he easily captures the audience's attention. Bill's personality develops with the play -- from modest and easygoing to enamored and elated -- and Nairn effortlessly moves through the character's transgression with fervor. He hooks the audience emotionally with his boyish gullibility and has us rooting for Bill all the way through.

As the play unfolded, I realized it wasn't just Foster's sharp, snappy writing that had me laughing out loud. Foster was able to extract an element of life that most of us have wondered about, daydreamed over, yearned for at one point in our lives -- finding that perfect mate -- and he exposes it as we never want to see it: absurd. He proves, with his penetrating script, how ridiculous that notion is but at the same time, gives us permission to laugh at ourselves for ever having entertained the thought. The moral of the story? Be careful what you wish for.