“This day didn’t turn out so badly, after all,” grins Sam Fluck, at the end of the 24 unexpected, hectic, hilarious and wonderful hours that lucky audiences have shared with his unforgettable family. Or, as his wife Hilda puts it, “Oh, what a family it is!”
Hilda’s Yard, by renowned playwright, Norm Foster, is currently on stage at Upper Canada Playhouse, and runs until August 2. It is the second show of the Playhouse summer season.
It has been said often of Norm Foster that he has an incredible ear for the way real people really speak. His characters are people audiences can actually identify with. Whether the plot is set in the 1950s or yesterday, these are men and women we can understand, even empathize with.
No Ming the Merciless striding across the stage, no Lady Macbeth clasping daggers – just the Fluck family, coping with the realities of real life. Will a 1957 Zenith 21 Console Television give new meaning to Sam’s world? Will Janey Fluck find her true purpose in life by taking a job at the local travel agency? Will Gary Fluck dive headlong into the mysteries of vinyl siding – or marriage? Will housewife Hilda Fluck, confronted with suave bookies, hep cat lady trombonists and her own wildly ‘flappable’ family members, rise to the occasion?
This wonderful comedy (and there are many big laughs in this play) grows naturally out of Foster’s carefully drawn characters. Director Walter Learning, in an earlier press conference, praised the strength of the cast in this production. “This is a great show, with wonderful, wonderful characters.”
As Sam Fluck, writer Norm Foster plays a man who has found strength and joy in his marriage. “The hand of God is the only logical explanation for you being my wife!” In the manner of many wage earners in the 50s, Sam has spent 27 years loyal to a deadly dull job, but the thought of future evenings spent with Hilda sustains him. “With our new TV set and no children in the house, I’ll feel like a new man.” He loves his children, but he doesn’t always understand them, even less so when his familiar, safe world, with all its “safe” attitudes begins to crumble. But this is Sam Fluck. The day will not turn out badly.
Erin MacKinnon as Janey Fluck and Brandon Crone as Gary Fluck bring passion (and fun) to their characters.
Janey has left her husband of three months (“Duncan is an animal! An absolute pig!” – although there is much more to her departure, as her father eventually learns.). And Gary is moving back home “just temporarily. I got in a little bit of trouble and there’s some guys looking for me.”
He’s a “romantic”, with, he swears to his mother, “lots of irons in the fire.” Of course, as he earnestly tells his father, “my name is holding me back.” She doesn’t want to “live mom’s life…be a housewife”: she wants the excitement of working in a travel agency, and the admiration of a man like the mysterious Beverly.
Home is where they both instinctively turn in a crisis.
Beverly, an enigmatic Bookie, is played by Jamie Williams. Despite a need to take unexpected and extended trips out of the county every now and then, this poetic thug, who intrudes on the back yard, has a way with words, and with charm. “I’m committing this moment to memory and stamping it with your name,” he tells an enraptured Janey. Even Beverly’s threats are silken.
Bobbi, the trombone playing, new 50s woman, acted with exuberance by Maria Dinn, leaps the backyard fence and brings the winds of a changing world to the Flucks. (“Your son has razzed my berries!”) She is a firebrand, unconventional, outspoken, who proclaims you have to “enjoy things as they happen.”
And then there is Hilda Fluck. Lovingly played by Patricia Vanstone, Hilda stands at the heart of this play. Foster has written a wonderful role for an actress in this character. Hilda is funny, valiant and a woman who can cope, in her own remarkable way, with just about everything that life, and her rambunctious family, can toss at her. She praises, she scolds, she reasons, she ever so gently even threatens (Beverly certainly takes her at her word, in an hilarious turn). With one hand in a clothes basket, Hilda holds her family together as they prepare to ‘chase their dreams’. “Here’s to my family! Oh what a family it is! Your joy is my joy.”
Contact Upper Canada Playhouse for tickets and information. Hilda’s Yard runs until August 2.