FRONT ROW CENTER
By Michael Warren
By Norm Foster
Directed by Bob Coull
This entertaining comedy by Norm Foster is an ideal community theater production, with four contrasting characters and some humorous and well-written dialogue. Smoothly directed by Bob Coull, Looking gives us an inside view of two pairs of friends and their desperate, yet funny, search for meaningful human companionship.
Ed Tasca plays “Andy,” a morning radio broadcaster, with considerable flair, and we first meet him advising his socially inept friend “Matt” on how to meet suitable women. He recommends some sure-fire pickup spots, including topless beaches, cruise ships and funeral homes: “All the women wear black, which is a very slimming color—and there’s food.” Matt, a divorced storage space salesman, is in many ways a more difficult part, and Tom Britton (with some success) has to strike a balance between being flat and graceless, and hinting at a hopeful spark under a boring exterior.
On the distaff side, we have “Val” (Randi Watkins) who plays a sweet and lonely nurse—“Two more celibate years and I regain my virgin status”—and her more cynical policewoman friend “Nina” (Diana Rowland). These two play well against each other, with some funny and sometimes touching scenes. Nina persuades Val to go out on a blind date—and of course she meets (and goes to bed with) Andy, while Val and Matt have a disastrous evening.
There is a hilarious misunderstanding—due to Matt’s malfunctioning cell-phone—when they meet at the Private Dick (a pub with a dubious name and lousy service) with Val wearing a red clown nose. So begins the dating game, an exercise that might be easy to abandon if its ultimate prize, true love, weren’t worth all the excruciating effort.
All four actors have fun with their roles, and the play is well-paced and very entertaining. Norm Foster, who wrote Office Hours—the first play of the season—is an accomplished and prolific Canadian playwright. He has an excellent touch and gives actors some juicy lines to deliver. I should also mention Trish Conner who walks on (and walks off) as a waitress who completely ignores the customers—maybe she could apply at one of the local restaurants! The set was fairly simple, using only a few props (e.g. an exercise bike) to suggest location; the dialogue really carries the play.
So Looking ends a successful season with an excellent production by rookie director, Bob Coull. Audiences have been challenged, amused, sometimes bemused—and on the whole sent home happy. I look forward to the summer production of Passengers in June, and the 2009/10 season which commences at the end of September.