Review by Danny Gaisin
A bane for theatre critics is the problem of having to see the same plays numerous times. Norm Foster’s “the Long Weekend” may have been previously observed but it still has a special connotation for this particular writer. My parents could never afford a summer cottage, so for the few times we were invited as guests, we were the equivalent of the ‘Nash’s in the play. NO matter how warm or hospitable our hosts were, there was always an underlining sense of superiority or patronization that we felt. It was like accepting charity. Foster’s play shows this overtly and thus personally touches home.
The Peninsula Players and its first time director Brian Munroe have decided to equally balance their rendering between comedy and emotion. There are some laughs and clever dialogue but it is the unequal status and lifestyles that will impact the audience the most. Everyone can identify with the dichotomies that occur in society. Munroe’s hand can be seen in the minute phrasing and bang on timing of the four protagonists, as well as the professional spotting and stage positioning that underscore the onstage progression. This is one of those plays where too much critical detail can be a spoiler, but hopefully, briefly mentioning the story outline will not kill or ruin it.
Two couples, whose wives share a long friendship enjoy divergent status and lifestyles. The Trumans are well to do with a brand new four bedroom McCottage while the Nash’s live a more humble and struggling lifestyle. Lisa Cook & Gregory Files are the former, he’s a successful lawyer while she is a newly published psychologist. Their guests are Kimberley Jonasson and Paul Byrne. He’s attempting to write a book; she has a clothing store and possesses a determined sense of style. hHence there are numerous gibes, barbs and denigrations. Colour coordination gets mentioned; but the emotional tone is ‘green’.
All four actors bring full descriptive measure to their portrayals and incorporate personal idiosyncrasies to help define their role interpretations. Cook’s physical stances, Jonasson’s posturing and especially Byrne’s brogue and facial expressions all help demonstrate their psyches. It is Flis that steals every scene. His arm-jerk resistance to even extending common courtesy, then yielding to Cook’s dynamic commands, will resonate with every married man in the audience. “I’m the boss, and I have my wife’s permission to be so!’
There are two aspects of the play that also resonate with yours truly. Terry and I both derive ‘nachas’ ( i.e. reflected pleasure from the achievements, accomplishments and successes of those we like, love or admire) and have never experienced a sense of Schadenfreude when things go wrong for them. Another bit that reverberates with me concerns Gordon Lightfoot. I’ve always considered him boring and repetitious and usually receive hate mail when mentioning this. One line in the Foster play states that ‘the Edmund Fitzgerald’ was playing on the radio while one couple is making love, and it concluded a half-hour later as the song finally ends! Thanks Mr. Foster for validating my opinion.
Community theatre never needs to take a back seat to the professionals in terms of dedication, effort, and detailing. The budgets may be less and the sets not as elaborate, but the industry and commitment of the four-dozen or so people involved is no less admirable. THE LONG WEEKEND is onstage in Grimsby until Nov. 18th