Foster's comic brilliance sprinkled
|Playwright shows new side in Cambridge production of Wrong for Each Other|
|Friday August 6, 2004|
|HARRY CURRIE RECORD STAFF|
REVIEW -- Norm Foster's play Wrong for Each Other is a surprisingly brilliant piece of theatre. Not that it's a surprise for a Norm Foster play to be funny, warm and well-crafted -- they all are -- but this one surprises in that it has moments of very serious drama mixed into his humorous observations of the foibles of everyday life and the people involved. The third offering of Theatre Cambridge's 2004 summer season, Wrong for Each Other opened on Tuesday, and this production continues the high standard already set by their first two this year and 2003's single embryonic testing of the waters. Wrong For Each Other might well be subtitled The Anatomy of a Relationship, so well does it document how things which begin so right can end up being so wrong. It begins with the chance meeting of Norah and Rudy in a big-city, upscale restaurant. These two, it turns out, were once married, now divorced, and haven't seen each other for four years. Overcoming the awkwardness of the situation, they decide to have lunch together, and the discussion veers toward what went right that later went wrong with their relationship.
These occurrences are told in a series of flashbacks, as the actors leave their upstage table and give us glimpses of their past, performed downstage. This is a clever bit of business, as it clearly delineates whether we are watching the present or the past without anything artificial to tell us. And so we are taken through their first meeting in a flower shop, where Rudy is so smitten with Norah that he says and does goofy things, desperately trying to keep her in conversation as he builds up his courage to ask her out. They are from two different worlds. Norah comes from a wealthy family interested in the arts --she's the manager of a civic centre --while Rudy is a house painter whose foray into the arts is no higher than major league baseball. Despite this, and perhaps because of it, they are drawn together, and we watch brief insights into their friendship, courtship, meeting their respective families, and the gradual evolution into marriage.
The scenes are funny, touching, and strike home to anyone who has gone through the struggles to establish the common grounds on which to build a future. He introduces her to baseball --and yelling at the umpire --and his family who sells food at a market on Saturdays. His meeting with her very formal father doesn't go very well, and Rudy begins to think he's in over his head. But they marry, and gradually begin to realize that the differences between them which pulled them together are starting to push them apart. Rudy has an affair -- of course he blames Norah -- and this is the beginning of the end. Through all of these vignettes we come back to the present, where they each comment on the incidents of the past with the wisdom of hindsight. The comments, along with the dialogue throughout, are witty, full of sparkling one-liners, and Foster's love of people comes through in every phrase. Norah and Rudy admit that they have each moved on and become involved with others, and when lunch is over and it's time to part that would seem to be the end of it. But Foster always has a trick or two up his sleeve, though I'm not going to tell you how it ends, for that would spoil the anticipation.
With only two actors on stage throughout it's amazing that there wasn't a boring or slow moment, and that's a tribute to the performances of Sharon Heidt as Norah, Bruce Tubbe as Rudy, and to director Walter Young. Heidt and Tubbe breathed life into their characters. It was like watching two real people going through the joys and sorrows of the trials and tribulations of sharing a life together. They both were in turn funny, nutty (the conversation after their first night together was hilarious), serious, hurt, dramatic and desperate, but with Foster's thread of humour never letting the play become maudlin or morose. Heidt and Tubbe carried everything off just the way the parts were intended. Foster is truly a genius, and despite his self-deprecating remarks about not trying to teach an audience a lesson or pass along some profound message, his plays often do just that, but always with an offhand warmth that never preaches. A simple set by Dennis Horn works perfectly and the production values are everything you'd expect from a professional company.
This is a wonderful play that has something to say to everyone who has ever been involved in a relationship, and what's more, it makes you laugh at yourself as you laugh with Norah and Rudy.