Review by Danny Gaisin
Norm Foster’s comedy/drama about dating and singles’ existence for the over-forty crowd has the ability to touch its audiences; whether personally or through knowledge of ones’ contemporaries. Being Jewish, Terry & I have an ingrained urge to be matchmakers whenever we meet someone unattached. On rare occasions, we’re successful.
In “LOOKING”, four people; two of whom are interested in meeting a potential mate, drag along their best buds for moral support at their first ‘personal-ad’ blind-date
The daters have no chemical reaction; the other two- an immediate attraction. What follows is obvious but Foster’s smart and quotable comments, plus the interaction of W.E.S.T’s protagonists, make this a fascinating study in human interaction; kismet, and magnetism.
Director Pamela Keyes has chosen to stage the play in a seriously minimal manner. No set, just a few props and rear projected shots of a health club; bar, radio station and two street views. Naturally, the result is total focus on the four characters and their individual attitudes & psyches. A big gamble by Keyes, but Michael Quast; Joe Balaz; Deb Dagenais & Lorraine Quast all are sufficiently talented to make this a new and worthwhile perspective on a familiar work. The foursome all pitch their lines with comedic phrasing and the necessary pauses to allow audience laughter to die down before follow-up repartee. Their vocal projection is immaculate so Foster’s prose receives it’s deserved due. Peeing & radio are one of the more memorable suggestions that the audience might take home and employ! Keyes exploits her charges competences in incorporating body language as a verbal adjunct. Whether its Dagenais working out or smiting a punching bag or Lorraine Quast’s sedentary postures, we know what the ladies are feeling & expressing. The contrasting personas of Balaz’ & Michael Quast’s backgrounds, personalities and status are iconic, like Laurel & Hardy; Martin & Lewis or Abbott & Costello. Diametrically opposite, they deliciously play off each other, much to the benefit of their audience.
Costumes are also unsophisticated but the cop-oriented tee-shirts worn by Quast’s ‘Nina’ earn some snickers. As well, the Burlesque-era ‘hook’ received some laughs from those of us old enough to remember its usage to end over-extended comics from the stage! Opening night at the OCPA was only about 3/4’s full. “LOOKING” deserves a larger audience and it will be running until Sept. 22nd. Call the Oakville Centre or WEST for tickets.