Monday, July 15, 2008
Mending Fences fantastic and funny
By George Teixeira Araujo, Special to Times-Reformer
Norm Foster, Heather Hodgson and Derek Ritschel

I love a good comedy. I love to laugh out loud and hear others laughing in a theatre because it's instant feedback on how well a comedy is doing. I also love a good story and it's the great story told by Norm Fosters Mending Fences that takes this play from a good comedy to a great show with the laugh-o-meter needle pinned in the red, now on stage at the Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover.

This play premiered in 2006 under the direction of Chris McHarge and he has brought back the original cast including playwright Norm Foster and LFT fan favourites Derek Ritschel and Heather Hodgson. McHarge has crafted a fast paced tempo that perfectly enhances this brilliantly written piece. The play is set in a ramshackle farmhouse in Saskatchewan owned by Harry who is portrayed by Foster.

Heather Hodgson plays his widowed neighbour Gin and together they have cultivated a comfortable relationship that is about to be challenged by the arrival of Harry's son Drew played by Derek Ritschel. Father and son have not seen or spoken with each other for over a decade and both are struggling with the reasons why and trying to figure out what to do about it and where do they go from here? Over the course of the story we see brief flashbacks to both Drew and Harry's childhood and this is where all three performers have some of their finest moments in the play.

Hodgson's portrayal of Harry's mother and ex-wife are riveting and her delivery and realism were outstanding in all of her characters. Derek Ritschel continues to perfect his dramatic technique and it is his reactions as Drew to the hilarious one-liners delivered by Harry and Gin that sell the comedy to perfection.

Having Norm Foster in a Norm Foster play is a treat that we have enjoyed in the past at Lighthouse but his classic deadpan comedic style is at it's best in this show. His impeccable timing and delivery, especially in verbal volleys with Ritschel, brought the house down over and over again. With Foster's Harry we also got to see a man in real pain with decisions he made long ago. It was real heartfelt pain not the classic Hollywood grimace we often see on stage.

Michael Greeves sets and Wendy Greenwoods lighting designs create the foundation for the story immediately on lights up and added subtle dramatic effect with a gentle touch. I will be returning to see Mending Fences again but this time I think I will bring my son with me to remind us to keep the fences mended but to keep the gates open. Mending Fences has some coarse language. It runs until July 26, tickets online at or by phone (519) 583-2221.