A Theatre Buff Reviews On A First Name Basis

An older friend of mine once declared that, “If at the end of your days you can count true friends on the fingers of one hand, you are a lucky man.” David Kilbride, the author/employer in On A First Name Basis doesn’t have such luck. He pays his ‘friends’; they’re on his payroll…his agent, his publisher, his lawyer and his business manager. The one employee he sees every day, his housekeeper, doesn’t make that list. David doesn’t even know her first name after twenty-eight years of service.

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Norm Foster and Lally Cadeau in On A First Name Basis. Photo by BankoMedia.

Her name is Lucy, by the way: Lucy Hopperstaad (Lally Cadeau). David learns this detail after he has insisted that she stay one evening as she prepares to leave. Through a humorously uncomfortable, witty, and insightful conversation, David and Lucy explore the themes of relationships and death…over several glasses of single malts and Chablis.

Because my husband volunteers as a set builder, we both take note of the set as we settle in before a play begins. This one represents the gracious, well-appointed home of a wealthy man. The ceilings are sixteen feet high; the wood panelling is smooth and dark; mill work abounds; the wing-back chairs  are tufted leather. But I wondered, as I ‘watched’ the play through two sets of sunglasses and often with closed eyes if it was all necessary (I’m managing another concussion!). Like Ravi Jain’s interpretation of David French’s play, Saltwater Moon, that is just wrapping up in Toronto, this play has a captivating back and forth dialogue. A beautiful set may be superfluous.

I saw the play opening night. The leading man, due to illness, was replaced by no other than the playwright Norm Foster. It had to have been very satisfying for Mr. Foster to volley lines with the leading lady, (to whom he had given the best ones!). On A First Name Basis is a fine play; it entertains as it niggles at one’s conscience.

On A First Name Basis is playing at Theatre Aquarius in Hamilton until November 11, 2017.

Bonnie Lendrum is the author of Autumn’s Grace, the story of how one family manages the experience of palliative care with hope and humor despite sibling conflicts, generational pulls and career demands. Autumn’s Grace is a powerful commentary on the need for well-organized and well-funded palliative care in private homes and in residential hospices. It’s a gift to families and friends who would like to be prepared as they help fulfill the final wishes of someone they love. 

A Theatre Buff Reviews: The Ladies Foursome

If camaraderie, confessions, and competition are the hallmark of a golf foursome, then director Marcia Kash has hit this production of The Ladies Foursome straight down the fairway. Playwright, Norm Foster, has captured women’s voices and social tics in an uncanny manner. It’s funny to the point where laughing is not enough. Spontaneous applause and foot stomping broke out several times. There were moments when I wondered if Foster’s research had involved activating hidden recorders in golf bags — in my foursomes’ bags to be specific.

The story begins on the first tee. It’s the morning after one of the members of the foursome, Katherine, has been buried. Her place has been taken by Dory who is a stranger to the remaining three members. Dory had known ‘Kathy’ for twelve years; the three remaining members have known each other and ‘Katherine’ for fourteen years. The knowing and not knowing of Kathy/Katherine creates a core of tension which leads to the revelation of secrets. The character profiles are strong: the narcissistic, flirtatious Connie (Gabrielle Jones); the anxious but pretty Tate (Stacy Smith); the tough talking, beer guzzling Margot (Karen Wood); and the earth mother, scripture spouting Dory (Carmen Grant).  Foster gives them lines that have the audience howling. Each of the actors has a powerful grip on her character, and her clubs.

The set by Douglas Paraschuk is spectacular— a lush golf course which has the actors entering and exiting from three different points. It supports the illusion that the tee box at centre stage is specific for each of eighteen holes. The lighting by Siobhán Sleath produces the effect of the passage of time during the course of four hours of play.

The Ladies Foursome is the final production of the 2015-2016 season at Theatre Aquarius. It should leave theatregoers eager to come back for more. The Ladies Foursome plays until May 7, 2016.

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