ARTS........................................April 4, 2006


Prepare to die .... laughing

Norm Foster's Long Weekend is so funny you'll be doubled over until the curtain falls

From left, Mary Long, Sharon Heldt, Ed Sahely and Don Noble at Theatre Aquarius. Photo by John Rennison
by Gary Smith
Hamilton Spectator

The only problem with The Long Weekend, Norm Foster's hilarious look at love and marriage disposable-style, is its sheer volume of laughs. You're so busy doubled-up most of the time, you're in danger of missing the next great one-liner. Good comedy is like that though, isn't it? It turns reality on its ugly head. It sets us laughing and we don't recover until the final curtain.

Even then, at that final fade-out, Foster nails us with a perfectly plausible, scrumptious twist. But don't look at me for that. If you want to know, you'll have to see the play. The Long Weekend is blissfully old-fashioned, the kind of comedy that used to keep Broadway happy for years. There's just enough sex, just enough smart talk, just enough preposterous plot twists to keep you titillated.

Wynn and Max Trueman are hosting their friends, Abby and Roger Nash, in their tiny country retreat. You know the sort of place ... a sage and plum, designer friendly cottage, somewhere in up-market Ontario. These are old friends, you see, ones with plenty of troublesome baggage.

Before long, things turn rough. It's a variation on Get the Guests, those nasty party games Martha and George played on Nick and Honey in Albee's Virginia Woolf. In this case though, it's more like get the hosts. Conversation is predicated on hilarious one-liners, snide put-downs on the hideous living room chair and brutal comments on the canary walls of the kitchen.

But wounds here run deep. Awful things get said. Before long, this disastrous weekend turns into a real rout. It wouldn't be fair to tell you how. Suffice to say these "friends" smile benignly as they circle for the kill. Max Reimer has brilliantly orchestrated a crack cast of noble farceurs.

Mary Long, luscious as ever, is wonderful as smart-mouthed Abby, a font of stupidity in chi-chi, trendy clothes. Ed Sahely is terrific as her anal husband Roger, who aspires to a creative career beyond the high school classroom. Sharon Heldt and Don Noble are perfectly obnoxious as their weekend hosts, lobbing off one-liners, both comic and corrosive.

It all happens on Allan Wilbee's smartly designed set and it's put in motion by Reimer's whiplash comic pace. If things peter out a bit somewhere in the second act, it's more a fault of Foster's stretching the truth than any failure of this production. Still, I'm willing to bet a lot of couples see themselves here in the mischievous goings-on. That's the thing about Norm Foster, really. He knows the minefield that is the relationship terrain almost better than anyone else.

The Long Weekend continues at the Dofasco Centre for the Arts, 190 King William St., through April 15. Evenings at 8 p.m. except Sundays. Matinees Saturdays at 2 p.m. Tickets $26 to $48. Call 905-522-7529.

Gary Smith has written on theatre and dance for The Hamilton Spectator for more than 25 years.