|Theatre In London|
|Old Love Reviewed by Kenneth Chisholm, September 20, 2013|
By Norm Foster
Directed by Kyle Pickersgill
Played by Rob Bannerman, Lesley Chapman, Rob Faust and Trish West An Elgin Theatre Guild production The ARTS Project September 19–21, 2013
With all the stories of young love, mature love and its challenges seem too often neglected in drama. This play is a well conceived answer to that deficiency with a witty romantic comedy with just the right amount of heart to give it substance.
Bud (Rob Faust) is a lonely business executive who finally decides to pursue the recent widowed Molly, whom he has grown to love over the years. As he pursues his dream, Molly (Lesley Chapman) has her own bitter memories as she adjusts to life after her loveless marriage. What follows is a series of reminiscences about parallel lives and loves as two people try to live with their marriages, even as they ultimate crumble from infidelity and overambition.
With those memories, the two survivors of love’s minefields have to see if their future can have anything in common after all.
Outside of Golden Girls episodes and the better romantic comedy films starring Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton and Woody Allen, mature love stories are an underserviced field of romantic comedy. In that regard, this Norm Foster comedy is a breath of fresh air with its wistful and witty story about love over the long haul in the elder’s perspective. Instead of youthful exuberance with love’s first fire, this story features love by real adults with its demands for patience and emotional compromise. With its slow and deliberate pace, you can really understand the feelings of the characters involved and understand their struggles with powerful resonance.
To make that work, the cast handles the multiple roles with practiced skill worthy of the best of local semi-professional theatre. For instance, Faust and Chapman carry the bulk of the play as the elder characters and narrators wonderfully as two elders trying to find real lives with a release from their old obligations. The result is a love story blessed with wit and heart that will defy your expectations. For instance, how Molly deals with Bud’s wooing is refreshingly realistic and gives the story some needed substance.
By contrast, Rob Bannerman and Trish West have the far more demanding task as the the various characters of Bud and Molly’s past. With the young actors required to quickly change roles and costume as fast as possible, they face the thespian challenge with a fluid effortlessness creating convincingly distinct characters.
For instance, Bannerman stands out with young Bud with all his understated integrity while playing Molly’s philandering husband with well concealed sleaziness.
West is similarly exemplary considering how she can shift from the loyal young Molly, facing marital betrayal, to the ruthlessly ambitious Kitty, prepared to sacrifice everything for her own benefit and who is stunned to learn Bud does not share that selfishness. In that climactic scene, Bannerman powerfully demonstrates that kind of integrity in character in an act that defies the stereotypes of familial fidelity and paternity in a way that will leave you speechless until you understand the real goodness behind it.
To frame such performances, the play’s staging is classic blackbox theatre. With only some furniture and a few façades, the actors have all they need to create a whole world of truly grown up love and its pitfalls. The whole effect is to create the proper spark for the audience’s imagination to create the greater emotional journey of the characters. Indeed, the costuming is perhaps the only indulgence with a well balanced feel of beauty and restraint as the story demands. The fact that wardrobe allows the players to switch roles at a moment’s notice speaks well for the stagecraft’s excellence.
Love with experience is a relatively rare romantic theme in Western culture. That alone makes Norm Foster’s play all the more valuable as an insight with a certain wisdom of years supporting it.