Swing into laughter with The Foursome

Now I’d be the first to admit that I don’t know anything about golf.

To me, a “hole in one” describes my socks.

“Bogey” is a great 1930s screen actor.

A “shotgun start” is a forcible hillbilly wedding.

But I do know funny. And Upper Canada Playhouse’s 2012 season opener, The Foursome, is funny. Very funny.

From the moment Rick, Ted, Cameron and Donnie stride on to the Windemer Golf Course at the start of Norm Foster’s hilarious tribute to friendship and to the ‘greatest game,’ the audience can settle back for 18 holes of pure entertainment.

On the surface, Foster’s plot seems straight forward: four old buddies get together at their 1985 college reunion, and “catch up” on the past 25 years as they take in an early morning game of golf. 

“This show is an ensemble piece,” said director Jesse Collins at an earlier press conference. “All four actors are out there, on stage, the entire time. Foster has broken the show into 19 scenes, a symbolic golf course really. Norm loves golf, and he loves relationships. The “man talk” that makes up the play is hilarious.”

Romantic secrets, rivalries and grudges fly around the course as readily as golf balls. Yet the audience comes to know this foursome, and to care about them. 

There is Ted, played by Victor Cornfoot, a man recently married to a wife 20 years younger and very sensitive about the comments this engenders. (Rick: “I’d like to give your wife a wedding gift. What should I pick up, a skipping rope?”) Secret fears of inadequacy plague Ted: Cornfoot paints a sympathetic picture of a man teetering on the edge of alcoholism.  

“What is that loud banging noise,” Ted snarls at Cameron, while clutching yet another morning beer.

“Leaves,” Cameron replies drily.

Rick (a delightfully arrogant Richard Bauer) is described by his friends as “self-centred, devious and shallow,” and those are his good points. He is forever seeking the ultimate deal, the big score. 

His old friends know him well. 

After hearing Rick’s description of his latest scheme which involves “importing” to Florida Brazilian pepper trees whose berries make song birds ‘high’ so they sing louder and longer, Ted immediately asks, “Is it legal?”

Rick: That’s sort of a grey area.

Ted: So you’re a bird drug dealer…

Cameron (cheerily played by Brian Young in very memorable plus fours) is the peace maker, constantly trying to keep the old gang on an even keel. Married for years, he admits that he is “living life vicariously” through Rick’s tales of his romantic escapades, until he learns just how far those “escapades” have gone. 

The hapless Donnie, father of five, loving husband, non golfer, is played by Sweeney MacArthur in  a Hulk t-shirt and orange plaid. 

To roars of laughter from the audience, he struggles to absorb the fine points of golf as he teams up with Rick in a “friendly bet” against Ted and Cameron. 

He is hilariously unsuccessful. 

Donnie: I think I’m standing too close to the ball. How far away should I stand?

Rick: Try Winnipeg.

His wife and his children are the very core of Donnie’s life. There is a wonderful Foster moment in the play when Donnie stands up to the scoffing of his buddies and makes that very clear. The audience at the performance I attended spontaneously applauded. 

Norm Foster understands relationships. He understands how real people talk to each other. And he understands the power of laughter. 

The Foursome is expertly directed, and appealingly acted on a beautiful set “golf course” created by technical director Sean Free.

By the way, Norm Foster, who loves golf dearly, speaks truth in a way that will resonate with all the golfers who see this show.

Rick: You know, we hate this game. Loathe it.

Donnie: Then why do you keep playing it?

Rick: Because every once in a while you hit that one perfect shot…It’s those shots that keep us coming out here week after week, not because we want to, but because we must…”

The Foursome runs until April 1. For tickets contact the Playhouse at 613-543-3713.

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