FRONT ROW CENTER
Review by Michael Warren
By Norm Foster
Directed by Jayme Littlejohn
Office Hours is a very funny play, essentially six independent skits set in various offices in an unnamed Canadian city, with certain common elements—a dead racehorse, a would-be suicide on a ledge, a romance novelist and the essential Week-at-a-Glance. Norm Foster has given us a little masterpiece of comedy writing, and this experienced cast gives it a good run for the money.
In the first skit, Keith Scott is “Warren Kimble,” a hack newscaster about to be fired—he jumps around the stage like a cat on hot coals, and sets the tone for the whole crazy evening. His boss is played by Sally Jo Bartlett, supposedly as a dragon lady and also (confusingly) as a bimbo with tight skirt and long legs. There is so much stage business in this scene that the entrance of the “One-Armed Man” (Russell Mack in disguise) comes as no surprise, nor do we care that Kimble is somehow stabbed. In the next scene Georgette Richmond (“Francine”) and Martha Reuter (“Gracie”) await the once successful Hollywood director “Bobbi Holland” played with considerable skill by Arleen Pace.
This is an amusing scene, with the two would-be directors playing off against each other, Francine relatively calm in contrast to the frantic Gracie. The alcoholic Bobbi describes her brilliant idea for a movie—identical in fact to the Tarzan story, except that her character is called Trevor. When asked how the Trevor character gets his name, the director points out that he was raised by a colony of apes who found his dead father’s passport. Duh!
The third scene features Russell Mack as “Mark,” an unfaithful husband who has been caught with his pants down by his wife “Ellie” (and she has photos to prove it). Russell Mack’s air of injured innocence is delightful, while Roseann Wilshere is entertaining as the half-demented wife. The next skit is one of the best in the play. Ken Yakiwchuk makes an excellent debut as an entertainment lawyer who is— as it transpires to the sorrow of his mother—gay. Betty Robinson is perfect as the fussy mother “Rhonda Penny” while Harry Walker plays “Lloyd Penny,” the henpecked husband. “This means I’m domineering!” wails Rhonda when she discovers that her son is gay. She doesn’t know that her other son Neil is out on a ledge, having failed as a skater and fallen (seven times) in the Winter Olympics.
In the next scene Russell Mack puts in another appearance as an overweight jockey, and Keith Scott (having recovered from his stab wound in Act l) is convincing as the stable manager trying to fire him. It’s an amusing premise, and incidentally explains the dead racehorse—the poor animal was carrying too much weight. Finally we have Roseann Wilshere acting like crazy as a sexually frustrated psychiatrist, while Jon DeYoung is very good as an obnoxious salesman. Meanwhile “Neil Penny” (played by Timothy Welch) is out on the ledge in skating costume, re-thinking his multiple klutz in the Olympics.
This is a good play. The actors did well, with good timing and delivery. Jayme Littlejohn, in her directorial debut, gave us a memorable evening though at times she went overboard on stage business—the best skits were those where the dialogue was allowed to do its own work. The set was extremely clever and I congratulate the set designer Peter Palmer and all those involved in set construction. Thanks to Jayme for giving us a splendid opening to the season.