LOOKING By Norm Foster
Produced by Mark Salonius and Directed by Eric Newton
By Joe Szek
Many of Norm Foster’s comedies always hit the right notes for audiences especially in the dull and dismal month of February. His plays are staples among community theatre groups because Foster creates believable characters in their raw, visceral state. Actors like his comedies because there is always a clear arc of development that is intriguing to explore.
What is appealing about Ajax Community Theatre’s production of ‘Looking’ is this cast, at the beautifully restored St. Francis Centre, has found all of the laughs (quite adult and ribald at times). Thankfully, these four seasoned actors from Durham Region never upstage each other. Once again, it has been a pleasure to see fine ensemble work gracing the many performing stages in the Durham Region, and ‘Looking’ can be counted up there with them.
‘Looking’ is the story of four middle-aged singles who, initially, are quite shallow in character while talking about possible future partners and spouses. In truth, all four are lonely people who are obviously searching, yearning and longing for stability in their lives. As the play progresses, we learn just how shy, scared and vulnerable the four of them are when the veneer is stripped away.
Nice guy, Andy (affably played by Dave Edwards) is looking to meet someone who isn’t interested in “head” games. HIs buddy, Matt, is the exact opposite as he is only into sex and then moving on. Ray Porrill delivers an engaging performance through many of his funny one-liners with Edwards as they talk about women and relationships. In Act 2, Porrill displays his talent when he finally does reveal his feelings to the sassy, single cop, Nina (saucily played by Shari Thorne) who reveals in the second act just how powerless she is in some of her failed relationships. Finally, there is Val (Nancy Palumbo), the nice, divorced OR nurse who is also looking for a solid relationship since she hasn’t been with a man in over six years. Ms. Palumbo makes us feel so many emotions for her in the struggles that Val has endured these last six years. All four of these characters meet on a blind date and the play follows their progress through the following weeks.
Foster’s quick paced, snappy dialogue is handled magnificently by each of these four skilled actors. It’s crisp and clear especially in the closing moments of the first act where each character is on the phone talking to one other. I’m almost certain that section alone would have been rehearsed many times. The sparse set, save for a table and chairs, is effective as ‘Looking’ has to move quickly to show the passage of the time within the weeks of the story. Many of the audience members (myself included) were either humming or singing along with the songs during the scene changes.
In his Director’s Note, Eric Newton states“everyone is always looking for something…not necessarily in all the right places.” Sometimes when it comes to matters of the heart, even when we are in our 50s, we can still feel like that shy, awkward teenager who doesn’t know how to respond to feelings. It was clearly obvious these four actors are having a lot of fun during the performance, and you should also get yourselves to the St. Francis Centre as well to have some fun with this talented group of people.
"Looking" runs February 18, 19 and 20 and 25, 26 and 27, 2016 at the St. Francis Centre, Church Street, Pickering at 8 p.m. There is a matinee at 2 p.m. on Feb 21.