Warm hearted comedy, UCP’s Hilda’s Yard opens


“This is just a great show,” said director Walter Learning, “with wonderful, wonderful characters. Norm Foster’s Hilda’s Yard is very much a heart-warming show as well. I have directed a number of Norm’s shows over the years, and it is a gift to have him in this production, performing with us. It’s also a joy to be back at the Playhouse. This place is special and the audiences here are astounding.”

Hilda’s Yard, Norm Foster’s play about the indomitable Fluck family, opens at Upper Canada Playhouse on July 9 and runs to August 2. This second production of the theatre summer season brings together a strong cast under the direction of veteran actor/director/playwright, Walter Learning. As final rehearsals were running at the MacIntosh Inn, the cast talked a bit about this show.

“I’ve always liked the 50s,” explained playwright Norm Foster, who takes on the role of Sam Fluck. “I would like to think that the world was actually like The Honeymooners. I see it as a simpler time, with a lot of good people. And I have to say that I liked ‘living’ in this era as I wrote Hilda’s Yard. I know that the 50s may not have really been the way I imagined them, but I also think this time was, in a sense, the last vestige of innocence.”

Sam and Hilda Fluck are looking forward to being empty nesters, their two children, Gary and Janey, safely launched into the world. Sam’s been doing the same boring job for 25 years, but now he’s finally going to ‘complete’ his life – by purchasing a small black and white T.V. set for him and Hilda. Ahead the couple envision warm, peaceful days spent in their own back yard, or in front of this new television.

Of course, in a Foster comedy, that is not how the plot will unfold. 

In short order, adult children Janey and Gary arrive back on their parents’ doorstep, hauling with them a lot of baggage, both literal and figurative. Two other characters, a jazz playing trombonist called Bobbi and a decidedly shady individual named Beverly, are soon embroiled in the goings-on in Hilda’s yard, with unexpected and hilarious results.

Jamie Williams, who has appeared at the Playhouse in a number of hit shows, is Beverly. “He’s a bookie,” Williams laughed, “But he is definitely not typical. He’s even poetic, and more compassionate than the usual thug. He’s a wild card in the play.”

Appearing at the Playhouse for the first time is Maria Dinn, who plays Bobbi. “Well, Bobbi’s ‘been around the block’ a few times,” Dinn said, “but she’s a strong, feisty character. And somehow she’s fallen for Gary, Sam’s son.”

Brandon Crone, also a Playhouse newcomer, is Gary Fluck. “Gary’s 33 years old, and he can’t quite seem to leave the family nest. He only moved out two weeks earlier,” Crone laughed, “and he’s already lost his pizza delivery job so he can’t pay his rent. I think of him as a lovable goof, full of good intentions who just can’t make it all work.”

Janey Fluck is played by Erin MacKinnon, who appeared in an earlier Playhouse farce. “Janey just got married three months ago, and now she’s separated from her new husband and she’s run back home. Still she has these big dreams. She wants,” MacKinnon paused, smiling, “to be a travel agent.”

Patricia Vanstone, Hilda of Hilda’s Yard, an accomplished actor, who appeared with Norm Foster in last season’s hit, On A First Name Basis, is the matriarch of the Fluck clan. “Hilda and Sam have a loving relationship, and a rock solid marriage,” Vanstone said. “She’s completely unflappable, especially when compared to Sam who can be very flappable. I really think that audiences will be able to identify with this family, because, despite the 50s setting, the issues they face are very contemporary. Norm Foster’s writing is superb. He is writing about extraordinary moments in the lives of ordinary people.”

“The people I’m working with in this show are fantastic,” Norm Foster said. “I think audiences will be touched by the laughter in Hilda’s Yard, and also touched by the hearts of these characters. And there are some big, big laughs in this show,” he added grinning.

For tickets and information about Hilda’s Yard, July 9 – August 2, contact Upper Canada Playhouse at 613-543-3713 or 1-877-550-3650.  

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