A brilliantly witty and easy comedy brings itself to the stage at Bay Theatre Company for the end of the 2012 year. A feel good funny piece coming direct from Canadian playwright Norm Foster (often called the ‘Neil Simon of Canada’), The Foursome is a warm and inviting comedy that will keep you laughing from the first putt to drinks at the end of 18 holes. Directed by Jim Chance this production takes four men who haven’t seen each other in twenty years since graduating university, and brings their lives, which are now vastly different from the lives they led during the school years, back together over a round of golf played at a country club. Hilarity and shenanigans ensue. It’s a wonderful light-hearted alternative to all the Christmas shows on stage at this time of year.
Set Designer Ken Sheets is really on par for this production. Transforming Bay Theatre’s space from what is normally a standard proscenium stage into a rolling green golf course in the round, Sheets mesmerizes the audience with Astroturf and green painted floors, bringing each hole to life with his incredible efforts. Combined with the workings of Lighting and Sound Designer Coin Dieck, the country club’s green outdoors is brought inside and you completely lose sight of the ceiling and walls surrounding them.
Director Jim Chance does a marvelous job of importing unique aspects of humor and functionality into the production. Chance opts not to use real golf clubs and balls due to the space, but you don’t notice or even miss them once the four men get going with their game. They are so physically invested in the movements of the game that the clubs and balls fictitiously materialize in their hands without ever actually being there. Chance makes the game itself so lively that the audience even holds their chuckles and responses to what’s being said as a shot is being made — appropriately resuming their laughter once the actors have nailed or missed their drive.
Chance further invokes creative genius by livening up the scene changes. With musical interludes that involve the four actors running about in silent pantomime appropriate to the music, be it wild animals, ballet moves, or some other amazing shenanigan; the passage of time and space from hole to hole much more readily and keeps the audience engaged. This is a pleasing tactic to executing scene changes, allowing for the actors to have a little fun while keeping the audience involved.
The four actors have a fierce bond between them as they play out these four old friends reunited one more. The sincerity of their portrayals is incredible; a natural effort in the genuine serious moments as well as a raw and real levity to the humorous ones. There is never a dull moment or awkward pause that isn’t intentional, nor any feeling of contrived dialogue or forced emotions.
The men share a companionship that despite the years of separation is as tight as if they were fresh out of university together. In a sense they have a ‘bosom-buddy’ open honesty as they nitpick at one another and poke fun at each other; an honest working relationship among them. This is shown even more readily when they each split up and pair off for golf teams.
Donnie (Stephen Patrick Martin) is the family man. Constantly laboring on about his five kids and wife, he is absolute rubbish at golf but he keeps his failures fresh. The text gives him repetition, the same disappointment and line every time he misses a shot, slicing or hooking it off into the woods or the rough; but Martin manages to keep it new and invigorating so that it never gets old. He shares great moments of covert celebrations with his partner on the course, Rick.
Cameron (James Gallagher) has a natural comedic element to his person that really highlights his character. Given the vibrant multi-colored golfer’s pants, Gallagher does his best to temper down the loud pants with his touches of deadpan and sarcasm. A staunch worrywart with a vicarious life through Rick’s endeavors his character is mild but amusing. Gallagher imports a striking similarity to Alan Alda in his portrayal of the duller man, and manages to execute flawless comic timing into the more strikingly hilarious moments.
Ted (Lee Ordeman) strikes up a fierce rivalry on the green with Rick (Paul Edward Hope). Ordeman has the character with the more serious issues to contend with, but manages to keep levity in his portrayal. His moments of fighting tension with Rick are priceless as they really raise the stakes over a simple game of golf. He grounds his character in his more serious moments so that when the laughs come they are that much more intense.
Rick (Paul Edward Hope) is the ringleader. The wise-cracking, smart-ass who is full of himself, Hope makes for an uproarious character. A jokester and schmoozer, Hope really digs into the more hilarious elements of his character, sincerely instigating every chance he gets. His shining moment comes during his patriotic ‘love of the game’ speech chorused to the tune of “Glory Glory Hallelujah,” a hell-raising gut-busting moment that has the audience roaring. His jokes are hilarious and even if they weren’t Hope becomes that guy who laughs at all his own. A glorious trickster with a deeply invested dynamic portrayal of a cad all grown up.
The Foursome is a feel-good comedy; something that doesn’t make you think too hard, a thoroughly enjoyable production that allows you to simply enjoy being entertained for the sake of your own amusement.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours, with one intermission.
The Foursome plays through January 13, 2013 at Bay Theatre Company – 275 West Street, in Annapolis, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 268-1333, or purchase them online.