A Few Laughs in a Dated Script
Reviewed by Sookie Mei
Port Stanley Theatre Festival is smack-dab in the middle of its season, with Wrong For Each Other the third play of six in the line-up, and it feels a bit like they have turned on the auto pilot. An oft-produced show, Norm Foster’s script is a proven favourite, but almost 30 years after it was written, it does not have anything fresh or new to say to this reviewer. The audience on this night seemed to enjoy the show, but I won’t need to see it again anytime soon.
That being said, there are some excellent elements in the show. The set is simple yet effective, with sections of the stage carved out as apartments, a store, a restaurant, etc. The overall look uses similar colours and styles to create a cohesive feeling, and the actors are able to remain on stage and move to another setting quickly without disrupting the flow of the play. The first-rate lighting goes a long way towards this flow, as well.
The direction is mostly solid, with a few notable exceptions, and the play moves along quite well, with no lags or gaps to slow it down. The tone in the first act is perhaps a bit too lighthearted, with all the dialogue coming off as a joke, even when it is meant to be serious. At times it feels like the actors are just saying the lines they memorized, rather than listening to and responding to each other. This gets better in Act 2, when there is more gravitas, giving the characters a small chance to pause for reflection.
The actors keep touching each other’s hands for some reason, which feels forced, or like they don’t know what to do with their hands. Some closer attention by the director could have improved these attempts at contact between the actors. Which leads me to the biggest issue I had with this production, other than the script…the cast.
Jeff Dingle as Rudy is personable and charming, and he has excellent comic timing. As much as he tries to establish a connection with his on-stage partner, Alexandra Brynn as Norah does not give him much back to work with. I find her performance lacks emotion, and even a big moment late in the show, meant to be a turning point, is lacklustre because there is no build-up to it. The absence of chemistry between the two supposed lovers is a huge misstep for this production.
As mentioned, I am not a fan of this script. The dated ideas about gender and sex, such as females needing to have children, are laughed off as coming from an out-of-touch man, but come across as old rather than quaint. Near-constant repetition of the same words/phrases as a comic trope – the word “dumpling” comes to mind – and several mentions of a man in his 50s being old as a way to garner cheap laughs from an older crowd leave me feeling uninspired, at best. I know that summer theatre is meant to be light-hearted and easy, but I yearn for shows with more substance and vitality.
Let’s hope the second half to PSTF’s season delivers.
Wrong For Each Other continues at the Port Stanley Festival Theatre (PSFT) until July 8. Tickets are available at the PSFT box office at 519-782-4353 or 1-855-782-4353, or visit https://psft.ca.
Photo: Jeff Dingle, Alexandra Brynn
Wrong For Each Other
Written by Norm Foster
Directed by Associate Artistic Director Liz Gilroy
Lighting Design by Karen Crichton
Set Design by Joshua Quinlan
Costumes by Alex Amini
Stage Managed by Jory McLean
Performed by Alexandra Brynn and Jeff Dingle
Port Stanley Festival Theatre, Bridge Street, Port Stanley
June 14 to July 8, 2023
Reviewed by Sookie Mei