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My Darling Judith
Opened at the Upper Canada Playhouse, Morrisburg, ON, Friday, June 15, 2001
After seeing MY DARLING JUDITH, my third experience with a Norm Foster play, I certainly understand why he's called the Canadian Neil Simon. You could just as easily call Neil Simon the American Norm Foster. His plays are very funny and, as with Simon, the humor derives from the plot and the characters, not from one-line jokes. Upper Canada Playhouse is doing another of Mr. Foster's plays later in the season, and they seem to be great audience pleasers.
In this production director Donnie Bowes has obviously encouraged his cast to keep up the energy and pace. Unfortunately, at the performance I saw, this resulted in three of the four cast members working too hard and shouting their lines at a breakneck pace. I wanted to shout back "Relax!"
The worst offender in this regard was Paul Stephen as David. He began the first scene at such a high pitch, particularly in vocal volume, that any hint of nuance was lost. He had nowhere to go in the second act fight scene, since he was already shouting. It's a very small theatre, and hearing the actors is never a problem. Also, I often got the impression he was waiting for his turn to talk instead of listening to the other actors.
Amanda Parsons as Anna began in the same vein, but must have taken a few deep breaths at intermission. She was much more believable and sympathetic in Act II.
Edward Leefe as Carl, the nerd character, began with the same kind of overdone characterization and vocal energy. I can only surmise that this was due to the director, as I saw Mr. Leefe last year in THE FOURSOME and know that he's a more accomplished actor than he appears to be in this production. He has one of the all-time great nerd lines, worthy of Woody Allen. "When women think of me they don't think of sex, they think of hysterectomies."
Both he and Miss Parsons improved markedly in Act II, largely due to the influence of Rona Waddington as Judith. She's a lovely actress and is thoroughly believable in the role. In his scenes with her Mr. Leefe began to calm down, and their scene together after the boating accident was really touching. Besides, any actress is pretty good if she can maintain her believability while clomping onto the stage wearing rubber boots and a slicker and asking, "Where's my harpoon?"
The new Artistic Director, Mr. Bowes, seems to have directed this play as a farce rather than a comedy. In some cases this has resulted in the substitution of pace and volume for reality. Mr. Foster's writing deserves better.
Although the production isn't up to the high quality of last summer, the play itself is still very funny. It's worth going to if only to see Miss Waddington, as this is her only appearance at the playhouse this season.
On a scale of one to five, the Upper Canada Playhouse production of MY DARLING JUDITH gets three and a half Macintosh Apples. For North Country Public Radio, I'm Connie Meng.