Bay Theatre Company's production of Norm Foster's "The Foursome" might well be described as a profound
In this season's second show, running through Jan. 13, Bay president Barbara Dwyer Brown promises to deliver "the gift of laughter in an exploration of the wonders of the male psyche on the golf course."
Foster's works are produced more frequently than those of any other playwright in Canadian theater history, with more than 150 productions annually. The author of more than 40 plays, he finds riotous comedy in believable people dealing with life situations. In "The Foursome," his four characters engage in gamesmanship, playing their golf game in two nine-hole acts.
Foster expresses "the unfiltered thoughts of four friends reuniting 20 years after their graduation from business school," director Jim Chance says in his program notes. "The verbal volleying, thoughtless attempts at humor and insensitive personal observations ring true. They're the impolitic truths that friends unwittingly inflict on one another."
In this production, Chance paces the action, with aspects of the reunited friends' lives being revealed on each hole. The four actors are totally convincing as once-close college friends getting reacquainted in a friendly competition that goes beyond golf. The four play their game, moving to varied musical accompaniment, from cartoon to familiar Tchaikovsky and Wagner melodies.
The music is enhanced by amusing choreography, comically executed by the foursome and created by Alicia Sweeney, who plays a cameo role as Lauri, the play's only female character.
Each hole becomes a segment played on various AstroTurf-topped greens created by set designer Ken Sheets and surrounded by audience members in Bay's reconfigured, in-the-round theater space. There are no balls or clubs, but each actor tees off convincingly to Colin Dieck's skilled sound effects.
Bay's gifted ensemble of actors delivers adroitly placed quips and inspired, revealing monologues that bring humor to adversity while never missing a dance move or offering anything less than perfect harmony — physically and even vocally on one happy occasion.
The game's organizer is successful TV ad salesman Cameron, who is a member of the golf club, eager to reconnect with his college-era "best friends in the world." Played by James Gallagher, Cameron is wistful about their having lost touch, alternately warm and cynical, and a hypochondriac who is self-assured enough to wear bold plaid golf pants yet insecure about his wife and his job. Despite his initial high-spirited enthusiasm for the game and his apparent affluence, Cameron becomes overly concerned about the amount wagered on each hole, growing increasingly desperate to win the match.
The best golfer of the foursome and perhaps the most successful in life, Rick sells boats in Florida and is a wise-cracking hustler who promotes get-rich schemes to his reunited friends. Played by Paul Edward Hope, Rick deftly zings others for their revelations about conversion to Buddhism or undergoing a vasectomy. He's a jokester who never married and a cheat who reveals a softer side when he confesses that he has recently discovered he is the father of a teenage girl and wants to marry her mother.
First to arrive on the scene is Ted, who opens his first beer at 7 a.m. and consumes five before they finish the first nine holes. Well played by Lee Ordeman, Ted discovers he is becoming an alcoholic, much like his father. Married a second time to a woman 20 years younger than him, whom he tries to please by delving into Buddhism with her, Ted communicates a quiet desperation to stay focused on his relationship, which seems destined for failure.
The foursome's victim is Donnie, who has never played golf before and comically struggles with each stroke. Stephen Patrick Martin conveys a content Donnie who is working in an ordinary job and leading a routine life as a devoted family man who adores his wife and four children and constantly talks about them, to the annoyance of the others. Told to stop talking about his family, Donnie is silent before delivering a convoluted speech that recognizes his "narrow existence" while defining the ultimate happiness found in dedication to family. Perhaps the least successful outwardly, Donnie enjoys the most rewarding life.
In "The Foursome," the major winner may well be the audience members, who discover humor in male concerns about virility and relationships and in surprise truths revealed.