They’re Found In Trees

 This Show is NOT For The Birds

Reviewed by Sookie Mei

It was a lively crowd at the Port Stanley Festival Theatre for opening night of They’re Found In Trees, written by “Canada’s most-produced playwright,” Norm Foster.  The audience was ready to be entertained, even cheering during the pre-show announcements by Artistic Director Liz Gilroy, and as the main event unfolded, they were not disappointed.

The play is about two middle-aged bird watchers, William and Mitchell, who meet in a park every Saturday under the same tree to look for birds and talk about life.  The duo decides to add new members to their birding club, and when the single applicant, Paula, shows up, the stage is set for a new dynamic.  Will the addition of a new member, and a female at that, be a good thing, or cause strife in the club, or possibly lead to romantic entanglements?  Foster sets up the situation nicely, and keeps us guessing about the outcome until the show’s end.

I was pleasantly surprised by the resolution, having been shown over the years how these plots typically work, and especially in a Norm Foster comedy.  I won’t spoil it, but suffice it to say the narrative plays out in an interesting and novel way.

The acting is superb by all three players.  Joshua Brown in particular portrays curmudgeonly William with pitch-perfect cadence and timing, showing us both his contrary ways and his soft side.  There is nice development of his character by both playwright and actor throughout the show, and Browne gives William a wonderful final moment. Andy Pogson as Mitchell is a delight, with wide eyes and engaging facial expressions, and some hilarious physical comedy that elicits prolonged belly laughs.  His blank look when having trouble with basic math is comedy gold.  It’s Sarah Machin Gale’s sixth season at PSFT, and as always, she is engaging and wonderful on stage.  As newcomer Paula, she is heartfelt, eager, nervous, and excited all at once, and Machin Gale’s realistic portrayal brings the audience along for the journey.  We never know exactly what she is going to say or do next, but with this great an actor, we know it’s going to be both interesting and hilarious.  The threesome plays off each other well, and it’s a great mix of personalities.

With a setting as mundane as sitting in the woods for hours, watching the skies, there is always a risk of boredom, but luckily this is not the case.  The play, like much of Foster’s output, is chock-full of clever dialogue, with hardly any breaks in the banter, and the topics of conversation are as interesting as they are varied.  Optometry, relationships, travel, lingerie, bladder control, death, family…the characters discuss a lot during the show, and there is a nice mix of serious and comedic moments. Each of the characters has experienced loss in some form, and the club acts as a kind of support group as they relate their feelings.  But being a comedy, the play is of course full of jokes and funny moments, walking just on the edge of cheesiness at times and then pulling it back at the last moment.  Multiple references to tits (the bird, of course!) are just part of the fun.

The set is beautiful, with a giant tree right in the middle of the stage, steps and a boardwalk off to one side, and an exit to the washrooms on the other.  Karen Crichton’s lighting is gorgeous, depicting the changing light as the action moves through the day and the year.  The soundscape of bird song is realistic and subtle, and the between-scene music is all bird-themed, adding to the playful atmosphere.

The direction by Liz Gilroy is terrific.  She deftly handles a very dialogue-heavy play and makes it feel intimate and engaging, with a tempo that is spot-on.  Fun embellishments to the show include a weird little dance by the actors between scenes, and an ASM sneaking in to steal stuff from the stage.  Between these touches and the show itself, Gilroy gives the entire evening a wonderful shape.

About the play, Norm Foster says, “I am writing a conversation between three very nice, and very unusual people…I really like William, Mitchell, and Paula. And I think you will too.”  The audience definitely agrees with Mr. Foster on this one…check out They’re Found In Trees and see if you do, too!

They’re Found In Trees continues at the Port Stanley Festival Theatre (PSFT) until July 13th.  Tickets are available at the PSFT box office at 519-782-4353 or 1-855-782-4353, or visit

Photo: Andy Pogson, Joshua Browne, and Sarah Machin Gale. Photo by Shutter Studios.

They’re Found In Trees
Written by Norm Foster
Directed by Liz Gilroy
Stage Managed by Jory McLean
Set Design by Joe Recchia
Lighting Design by Karen Crichton
Assistant Set Designer Emma Burnett
Costumes by Alex Amini
Performed by Joshua Browne, Sarah Machin Gale, and Andy Pogson
Port Stanley Festival Theatre, Bridge Street, Port Stanley
June 19 to July 13, 2024


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