Front Row Center – January 2021

Front Row Center

By Michael Warren

Lunenburg

By Norm Foster

Directed by Georgette Richmond

front row

 

This comedy was originally scheduled for the fall of 2019, but was cancelled three weeks before opening night. Now it has been successfully revived as a reading under the auspices of Ajijic Readers Theatre (ART).

It works very well as a reading because all the action is in the clever and entertaining dialogue. Norm Foster sets up an interesting situation in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. “Iris Ouellette” is an American woman from Maine, and her husband, Robert, has just been killed in a plane crash. Evidently he owned a house in Lunenburg, and she knew nothing about it. What other secrets had he hidden?  She arrives with her friend “Natalie,” and they soon discover, with the help of friendly neighbor “Charlie,” that Robert had another wife, Jennifer—also killed in the plane crash. And he married Jennifer nine years ago, so that Iris finds out to her dismay that she was his second wife, the “other woman.”

As always with Foster, there are some very funny one-liners, mostly in the developing relationship between Natalie and Charlie. Tina Dawn Leonard plays Natalie with considerable skill; in fact, it’s her energy that drives the movement of the play. Brian Fuqua is excellent as Charlie, and keeps his balance in a difficult role. It’s difficult because this is not a farce—the characters are real people in a subtle moral situation. Natalie is supposed to be there as emotional support for Iris, a job that she is hopeless at. She spends all her time making advances towards Charlie. They have a lot in common, both divorced with grown-up children they never see. Meanwhile Iris is left on her own to figure things out, which is actually her best therapy. Darlene Sherwood plays Iris well, weepy in the first act, and then becoming her true self in act two.

When Iris discovers Jennifer’s journal in the house, we immediately think that there will be revelations. Perhaps Jennifer and Charlie had an affair? After all, they were friendly and she was left alone when Robert went on business to the States. But no, that would be too corny. In this play, Iris finds out that her husband was planning to divorce Jennifer, and then she has to forgive, perhaps even to love her. And Natalie and Charlie have to begin to grow up and find some way to reach their estranged children. The play ends with Iris placing flowers on Jennifer’s grave.

Georgette Richmond directed with discretion, not allowing the one-liners to overwhelm the real sentiment. On the whole, the pace was good, though there were a few unnecessary pauses. Thanks to ART and congratulations to all involved. I look forward to more high quality readings at the Lakeside Little Theatre.

 

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