By Mike Czechowicz
Special to Lambton Shield
Theatre Sarnia has hit a hole in one with its latest offering, The Foursome.
The Norm Foster comedy, with some dark overtones, has four old college chums, home for their 15 year reunion, hooking up for a round of golf and sharing their successes and failures.
Stock characters quickly emerge from the awkward banter which marks the first scene and sets the tone for how much each of the four have changed, or maybe just accentuated what was always annoying about them even in their carefree college days.
Ted, played by Tony Frangis. is an alcoholic who pulls cans of beer out of his golf bag offering them to everyone even though it’s only 7:00 a.m.
Cameron (Doug Murphy), the worrywart of the bunch and the only member of the golf club, protests that he might lose his $800 membership fee if they get caught drinking. However, he eventually acquiesces to the pressure of the others.
Donnie (Andrew Hiltz), with no noticeable career except being father to five kids, and the conniving Rick (Shaun Hood), a scheming bachelor who sells boats in Florida, and peddles dubious investment schemes, round out the quartet. To create more excitement, Rick suggests making a bet on the outcome of the game and this sets the ensuing dramatic elements in motion.
Aided by alcohol and wit, the four swing away playfully at each other until they confront the most treacherous of traps: the past and how it informs the present.
Beneath the bravado and teasing lurk the insecurities and fears of grown men coming face to face with life and aging. Good-natured ribbing in the first act, which seems to be written and played just for laughs, develops into more caustic, meaningful and compelling dialogue in the second, as the golfers each own up to truths they need to face. Foster doesn’t squander a scene with his perceptive take on the male psyche: the one-upmanship, the put-downs, the sarcasm, the emotional handicaps, and the fantasies and insecurities around sex.
As far as plot is concerned not much happens beyond the inevitable progress from one hole to the next but what keeps the audience engaged, besides the well timed humour, is wanting to know what the next bomb to be dropped will be: sterility; a love child; the revelation that all four had slept with the same woman who is now the wife of one of them! Each new revelation tops the last.
To pull all of this off, director Dan White has assembled a formidable cast and has each of them imbue their respective character with their own very different personalities and quirks, while at the same time melding them into a believable team working wonderfully off of each other.
There is not a duffer in the cast. Shaun Hood playing a cool Rick, the best golfer of the bunch, delivers the best put downs with a deft touch. Doug Murphy’s Cameron is appropriately neurotic and his hypochondriac turns are hilarious. Tony Frangis keeps his character’s foibles in check until his protective shell is worn away to reveal an emotionally wounded man-child within. Novice actor Andrew Hiltz does a wonderful turn as Donnie. His boundless energy and enthusiasm for life, despite the burden of five children and never being able to keep a ball out of the rough, is infectious.
There are no obvious hazards either associated with the supporting cast who manage stage, sound, lighting, set and costumes with precision and care.
Two noteworthy examples are the timing with which sound man Brian Little coordinates the thwack of each of four clubs hitting the ball over 18 holes and the excellent use of product placement and marketing savvy: every scene has a different projected backdrop of one of our lovely local golf courses that sponsors each of the holes.
The Foursome runs April 29, 30, May 4,5,6,7, at 7:30 and Sunday matinee, May 1 at 2 p.m. Tickets available online at www.imperialtheatre.net , by phone or in person at the box office at 519 344 7469.
PHOTO: DON JANES
PHOTO: DON JANES