.The BEAT Magazine
Old Love a four-star winner for the Elgin Theatre Guild
Written by Geoff Dale
 

Old Love By Norm Foster

Elgin Theatre Guild
Directed by Kyle Pickersgill
Produced by Ken Roberts
Stage management by Sarah MacDonald
May 9-19 performances at 8 p.m. with 2 p.m. shows May 12 & 19
For information call 519-633-8530 or go online or www.elgintheatreguild.ca
 

Norm Foster’s charming two-act Old Love may feature a fairly straightforward plotline but in the hands of a talented theatre company, guided by a director with a genuine affinity for the work, the production can be a pure gem.

That’s exactly what you get from the Elgin Theatre Guild’s inspired four actors and a very skilled director Kyle Pickersgill. In fact, this may be one of the best adaptations of a Foster play in recent memory, certainly by an amateur company.

So what’s it about? It’s a romantic comedy, with touches of personal drama, spanning three decades, over which time a smitten Bud Mitchell meets (on several occasions) and falls hopelessly in love with his boss’s wife Molly Graham. The tone of those meetings is comic, with the setting usually an after-hours business social event.

Other than the socially awkward employee’s well-hidden infatuation with the always inebriated object of his desire, the action amounts to little more than a few shared words, all of which are promptly forgotten and lost by the outwardly and inwardly bored Molly in a haze of alcoholic indifference. Each subsequent time their paths meet, she has no idea of who he is and the fact they already know each other.

 
 

The story opens with a wonderful monologue of remembrance as the now divorced Bud recalls making a rather odd and equally inappropriate play for Molly many years later at the funeral of her late husband Arthur, a man who is later revealed to be quite the serial adulterer, as well as a hugely successful businessman.

Without resorting to the dreaded spoiler alert, it should suffice to say that Foster’s work is played out in a series of wonderful transitions of time and place, featuring both the two leads, younger versions of themselves and their respective mates – the philandering Arthur and Bud’s social-climbing wife Kitty, an obnoxious woman who is clearly in love with the concept of marriage, provided the package includes luxury trappings that include a condo in the Caribbean.

The play unfolds on a never-changing but highly effective set consisting of no more than a few perfunctory sticks of furniture. Other than the odd overcoat, all characters remain in the same costumes throughout, so the nuances are captured in a wonderfully subtle manner. Pickersgill, who acts as both director and set designer, gets full marks for his contributions here.

In the words of the playwright, this is a play suggesting “people of a certain age shouldn’t be thinking about love, especially the physical kind.” The reality is that love comes from the heart and is not hindered by barriers such as the aging process or socio-economic status. Throughout the characters share and live with their own personal obstacles – hurdles they spend three decades trying to come to grips with. The result is a magical blend of humour, drama and all that stuff that makes living so intriguing, often perplexing and virtually inexplicable. Foster is a master craftsman.

The cast is uniformly excellent. Rob Faust is superb as the present-day Bud, insecurities, regrets and yet-to-be fulfilled desires and all. Lesley Chapman elicits moments of sympathy and sheer joy as the Molly of today, in addition to her other characterizations.

Steven Gauthier is a delight as past Bud, Arthur Senior and Arthur Junior. As the often besotted younger Molly Trish West is top notch, also offering delightful past images of Delores, Shirley, Kitty and Kendra.

What is particularly gratifying about this production is the manner in which all four deliver the dialogue so smoothly and without hesitation. At times, this is less a theatrical exercise and more of a real-life scenario. There is an immediate comfort zone the moment Faust launches into his first solo monologue. The acting quartet clearly understands the intent of the author and subsequently delivers their lines with real gusto, depth and appropriate emotion. The performances are both natural and believable. Foster’s words became theirs, which ultimately draws the audience into the quirky worlds of these individuals.

Pickersgill has drawn the best out of his actors. The pacing is ideal and best of all, there is always the feeling that what you are seeing is actually happening. Some amateur groups don’t get it while others do. This company really does get it and, with Pickersgill at the helm, delivers a memorable night of great entertainment. This is amateur theatre at its best. Old Love gets a much deserved **** out of four stars.

****/ 4

Geoff Dale is an Oxford County theatre reviewer and freelance writer/photographer.