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REVIEW: Screwball Comedy a must-see

Screwball crew - Stephen Sparks, Adrian Shepherd, Mairi Babb and Melanie Janzen star in Screwball Comedy at Theatre Orangeville until April 22. Submitted photo

REVIEW: Screwball Comedy a must-see

by Chris Daponte

ORANGEVILLE - Like any good writer, Norm Foster tries to incorporate the word “assuage” whenever possible.

In his case, it’s a foretelling quirk, as Foster productions unfailingly alleviate everyday worries for theatre-goers. The latest example of the playwright’s escapist humour is Screwball Comedy, on stage now at Theatre Orangeville.

Set in 1938, the play opens with newspaper editor Mr. Godfrey, nicknamed Bosco (played by Stephen Sparks), accusing his top reporter Jeff Kincaid (Adrian Shepherd) of subpar work.

When Kincaid pushes back, Bosco enlists the help of aspiring journalist Mary Hayes (Mairi Babb) and issues a challenge to his star reporter and the newcomer: whoever writes the best story will retain the reporter’s job.

The ultimatum is taken as an insult by Jeff and as the chance of a lifetime by Mary, though the actual assignment inspires neither of them.

They’re tasked with covering the upcoming high society wedding of the son of the newspaper’s owner Delores Diddle (Melanie Janzen).

But the reporters arrive at the Diddle mansion to discover Delores actually wants them to dig up some dirt to help break off the wedding of her indolent son Chauncey (also Sparks) and his fiance, the suspected gold digger Gloria (also Janzen).

Making the task even more confusing are the pending nuptials of Delores and her own fiance Peter (Sparks again), whose relationship seems odd in its own right.

Jeff and Mary soon discover things may not be what they seem and the “fluff piece” for the newspaper likely won’t be that easy to write after all.

Shepherd and Babb are great in portraying the on-again, off-again romance between Jeff and Mary, including back-and-forth dialogue and verbal jabs reminiscent of the 1930s and 40s  films after which this production was aptly titled.

Janzen is hilarious in three roles (she also plays Bosco’s secretary Jonesy), particularly as Delores and Gloria. The two women, while different, are both  eccentric with a penchant for absurd mannerisms.

Sparks is outstanding as Bosco, Chauncey and Peter, and his portrayal of the Diddles’ odd butler Reginald is itself worth the price of admission. Sparks’ delivery is flawless, eliciting loud laughter and applause at Reginald’s outlandish bootlicking and self-deprecating commentaries on his menial status.

The set and costume design, by Beckie Morris and Alex Amini respectively, are fabulous, and the direction from David Nairn appears to be spot-on.

As is often the case with Foster productions, the script is stellar from start to finish.

This is obviously a period piece, but the material is certainly not dated. In fact, this is one of Foster’s funniest scripts to date - and that’s saying something.

Seldom have I heard so much laughter, and at such a high volume, during a live theatre production.

Chalk up period dialogue as yet another feather in Foster’s theatrical cap. Screwball Comedy is an absolutely hilarious foray into a bygone era. It’s a must-see.

Screwball Comedy plays until April 22. For tickets call 519-942-3423 or 1-800-424-1295 or visit theatreorangeville.ca.

April 13, 2018

 
 

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Community Guide Autumn 2018

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