by Norm Foster
Arts Club Theatre Company
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
July 27 - September 4
604.280.3311 or

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.”

Jerry Wasserman

last updated: Sunday, August 7, 2005 5:33 PM
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