HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA | Sunday January 21, 2007
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“ Undertake something that is difficult; it will do you good. Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow. ”
Ronald E. Osborn

Leisa Way and Bill Carr star in the Neptune Theatre production of Norm Foster’s The Love List. The perfectly cast show runs until Feb. 11. (TIM KROCHAK / Staff)


Neptune finds perfect match
The Love List meticulously crafted

It’s no coincidence that Bill Carr is playing Bill in Norm Foster’s The Love List.

This Bill is made for the part of Bill, a 50-year-old paunchy, balding statistician who believes he is unattractive and unlovable. Simply put, Carr is adorable as Bill.

He is also in peak condition as a comic actor, as are the other performers in this comedy about the impossibility of perfection and the possibility of love. The physical comedy and verbal sparring between Bill, his friend Leon and the "perfect woman" is acting of such intense focus, skill and passion that the product is flawless.

At one point on opening night Carr was getting so many laughs he slowed down the action and extended the moment as Robin Ward (Leon) struggled — successfully — to maintain composure. The audience loved it, and it was fun to see a break in the precise polish and perfect pacing of the play, directed by Ron Ulrich.

Foster is Canada’s most-produced playwright. His warm-hearted, small-cast comedies of everyday life have made perfect summer fare at Festival Antigonish, but Neptune Theatre has never produced his work.

Foster has a gift for depicting ordinary individuals struggling along in their everyday lives until a collision of characters and a comic force shakes up everything for a comic re-ordering of experience and self-knowledge. Foster’s comedy is neither rapier intellectual wit nor scathing black humour. It is everyday, lying in the common failings of all of us and in the sarcastic jockeying of daily conversation.

In The Love List the stakes are high — true love. On the occasion of Bill’s 50th birthday, his best friend, the rakish novelist Leon, buys him a match-making service and first gets him to fill out a list of the Top 10 attributes he wants in a woman. An hour after Leon leaves, the woman arrives, a mystery and, as Leisa Way portrays her, a dazzling, effervescent character, with whom Bill falls slowly in love, finally giving up his inhibitions and workaholic ways to be free and happy and giving.

In the second act, the perfection crumbles as Leon and Bill realize who the perfect creature is and try to change her. Way, a compelling actor who has played the part of Justine before, is terrific at the rapid, high-octane changes in character as The Love List rockets to its conclusion.

This intimate drama is also about friendship. Bill and Leon are affectionate, teasing friends and darts champions but as Bill’s star surges forward, Leon finds he is past it as a writer, a husband and a ladies’ man. Robin Ward has all of Leon’s rumpled charm, arrogance, wit and, finally, vulnerability.

D’Arcy Morris-Poultney’s costumes are wonderfully thought-out from the Flaherty’s Pub dart-league shirts to the lovely orange negligee Justine wears making her already warm character glow even hotter. When she puts on giant gold dish washing gloves she is like the sun, and Bill’s fashion mistakes of green shirts and tan vests add to the warmth and colour, while Leon is kept in darker clothes.

Set designer Corey Mullins has fully realized a wonderfully ageless dwelling for Bill with its ’70s ranch-style, brick chimney, late 20th century stainless steel fridge and today’s computer.

Effective lighting design is by Peter Lyne.

The two-and-a-half hour production of meticulously crafted, light and delicious entertainment runs at Neptune Theatre until Feb. 11.