There's a lot to like in Storm Warning
Lynn Peppas / Tribune Staff
Entertainment - Saturday, June 17, 2006 @ 09:00

Showboat Festival Theatre's latest production, Storm Warning, written by Norm Foster and directed by David Savoy, was a blockbuster performance; a powerfully poignant, yet humorous, love story, marvellously acted on a great set. What's there not to like here?

The play is set in 1953 - a few years after the Second World War - at Pigeon Lake Hidden Cabins where shell-shocked army vet Jack Forrester (played by Thom Currie) is verbally assaulted by his next cabin renter - the brash and liberated Emma Currey (played by Tracey Hway) - a big-city girl who arranges jazz music and is looking for a little solitude in which to get some work done. The two are polar opposites: Emma is open and talkative where Jack is mysterious and reserved. Intrigued by his silence, Emma relentlessly pursues Jack in an effort to get him to share his secrets with her, all the while trying to hide her own dark past.

Canadian playwright Norm Foster is the master of romantic comedies and this is really one of his finest. Foster caters to the baby boomer audience by loading this play with subtlety dropped '50s pop culture references to Marilyn Munroe, Miles Davis, and there's even "the pill" foreshadowed. Captured, too, are the social mores of the day, in the strong, liberated front that Emma puts up, to the newfound, awakening emotions in Jack.

And even though there's some serious subjects bandied back and forth between the two characters; Foster's quick-witted, often sarcastic humour is always largely present in the fast-paced dialogue. Profound and yet funny - this is exactly what Foster does best, especially in Storm Warning.

Actor Hway brought a lovely, enthusiastic energy to her portrayal of Emma. Hway came onstage strong, her vivacious and bubbly persona instantly likable, even though she was supposed to be humorously annoying. Hway really owns this role, having premiered in Storm Warning when it originally opened in 2003. Her consummate familiarity was apparent in every action and every line delivered. Even while maintaining her strong, newly liberated woman image, Hway managed to ingeniously drop her guard for her more effeminate moments, providing a rich complexity to her character.

Actor Currie did a fabulous job onstage as well, and gave a raw and emotionally-charged performance, especially evident when he shared a floodgate of secrets and relived the horrific combat scene in exquisitely painful detail for Emma. Currie was sexy and sensitive, as Emma remarked during the play, "Everything a woman is looking for in a man."

That brings me to my next point. What also fuels this play so remarkably well is the romantic chemistry that sparks on stage between Hway and Currie. This is one of those runaway romances where the characters fight against love's strong attraction. It's got that heartbreaking and desperate quality to it, entirely credible with the fine acting of Hway and Currie. The innovative set by Doug Robinson was a contemporary design of interesting levels and walkways that doubled as an external, dock-like setting in the first half, and with the aid of a few more props became an indoor cabin setting in the second. Couple that with Roselawn Theatre's unique theatre-in-the-round and you could almost feel the dock roll beneath your feet. Theatre-in-the-round gives the illusion that you are peeking into the most intimate moments of the actors on stage. It is a novel approach to stage setting, entirely captivating to watch, and the open space was well-utilized by the actors.

Showboat Festival Theatre's production of Storm Warning throbs with passion and bubbles with humour. There's a lot to like here: it's a great play that's brilliantly acted on a unique, contemporary stage set. It's funny and moving all in the same heartbeat. If you like a good romantic comedy, don't miss this play. n Performances of Storm Warning continue until July 1 at the Roselawn Centre, 296 Fielden Ave., in Port Colborne.

Show runs from Wednesday to Saturday at 8 p.m. and matinees Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Ticket prices are $20 to $25. Storm Warning-themed lunch and dinner theatre packages are available. For ticket reservations call the box office at 905-834-0833.