For Norm Foster fans, there is an excellent production of The Melville Boys on stage at Playhouse II in Grand Bend. This is one of Foster’s earliest works, and it’s different than the Foster we see today. In the years since he wrote The Melville Boys in 1984, Foster, Canada’s most prolific playwright, has churned out about 50 more. Foster’s recent plays are pure comedy, usually light stuff. But The Melville Boys has a more serious bent. Sure, there are many laughs included, but cancer is not funny stuff.
Fortunately, this talented cast made the most of the comedic lines. We laughed out loud – and we cried a little bit, too. There is a very tense fight between the Melville Boys, followed by an embrace where I doubt if anyone had a dry eye.
The Melville Boys is full of the typical Foster wisecracks and the recognizable characters that make his work so popular. In this case, the two brothers, Owen and Lee are heading out for a weekend at the cottage. It’s apparently fun time for Owen who is getting married in three weeks, and contemplation time for Lee who has malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of cancer. Lee’s health is the elephant in the room – he wants to discuss the future with Owen, but Owen won’t listen. They meet sisters Loretta and Mary, and when the four personalities are brought together the results are thought-provoking, sad and of course, funny.
Brad Austin is perfect as Owen, the “here for a good time” brother, while Richard Quesnel is excellent as the “not here for a long time” brother. Austin has excellent comedic timing and Quesnel shows his frustration with his situation, as he struggles to wrap his head around it.
Shauna Black is hilarious as the used-car TV-ad actress, who is just looking for laughs, while Anita La Selva is good as the serious sister who eventually recognizes her own issues.
The four characters are very real – in fact, this is Foster’s forte. We know them as our friends and family, or we might even see ourselves on stage. And because nearly all of us have been touched by cancer among family or friends, this show is a little too real. Nevertheless, it is entertainment.
In this production, death is cheated. Instead of casting a pall over the future, comedy reigns supreme and we leave the theatre feeling hopeful and happy.
The Melville Boys continues with eight shows a week until August 11 at Huron Country Playhouse, Playhouse II, Grand Bend. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office: 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com
The Melville Boys
By Norm Foster
Directed by Chris McHarge
Performed by Brad Austin, Shauna Black, Anita La Selva, Richard Quesnel
Drayton Entertainment Production
Playhouse II, Grand Bend – August 1 to 11, 2012
Drayton Festival Theatre, Drayton – August 15 to September 1, 2012
Reviewed by Mary Alderson