by Norm Foster
Arts Club Theatre Company
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
July 27 - September 4
604.280.3311 or www.ticketmaster.ca
Norm Foster is Canada’s most prolific and commercially successful
playwright, wowing theatregoers with comedies that, according to
his program note for The Foursome,
try to “touch an audience’s heart as well as its funny-bone”
and make people “feel a little better about this world.”
Foster writes sit-coms. They’re never challenging or deep
but at their best are clever, feel-good pieces featuring lots of
funny lines. At its worst his work is facile and formulaic, with
a slapdash quality that lets two-dimensional characters incongruously
claim three-dimensional emotional lives.
The Foursome is neither
the best of Foster nor his absolute worst. Four guys in varying
degrees of mid-life crisis josh and bond and bare their tiny sit-com
souls on a golf course. Director Bill Millerd essentially lines
them up across the front of Ted Roberts’ green felt set, leaving
the four actors to carry what they can of the show with their considerable
comic skills and charm.
Best buddies in university, the guys are together again for the
first time in 25 years. Sweet-natured family man Donnie (Hrothgar
Mathews) talks compulsively about his children and plays golf very
badly. Heavy-drinking Ted (Stephen Dimopoulos), married to a much
younger woman, has a couple of dark secrets. Worry-wort Cameron
(Tom Pickett) is the most sexually insecure of the bunch. He has
a secret, too.
So does alpha-male Rick (Jackson Davies), a hustler who boasts
the best sex life and golf swing. He’s also, in his friends’
words, “self-centred, devious and shallow.” And he’s
homophobic, baiting Cameron about his son’s tap dancing and
figure skating, stupid lines that get some of the biggest laughs
in the show.
Most of the comedy is silly and inoffensive—Rick’s
investment scheme involving an exotic plant that gets birds high
develops into a very funny sequence of jokes—and the veteran
actors milk it to the max.
But their characters are ultimately pretty pathetic, obsessed
to the point of creepiness with potency, sterility, sexual anxiety,
sexual performance, sexual jealousy. Maybe it’s all those
sticks and balls.
Speaking of golf, what we get of the game is very limited and
repetitious. The play is divided into 19 scenes, one for each hole
plus a clubhouse epilogue where the characters’ conflicts
are suddenly and weirdly resolved. Each scene is set on the tee
of the successive hole. 18 tees, 72 mimed drives. No pitches, no
putts. We’re never on a green or in the rough. We can only
hear about the key offstage putt that provides an essential clue
about one character.
Weirdest of all are the slide projections that announce the Arts
Club’s corporate sponsor for each hole. Bard on the Beach
should take heed. Imagine the possibilities: “‘To be
or not to be’ is brought to you today by Ikea.”