What happens when a curmudgeonly immovable object is swept into the path of a flamboyant irresistible force?
Jonas and Barry in the Home, that’s what.
One of playwright Norm Foster’s newest plays, Jonas and Barry in the Home, is currently on stage at Upper Canada Playhouse, running until October 2. Starring Foster himself as Jonas, David Nairn as Barry and Perrie Olthuis as Rosie, I have only three words of advice about this show.
Don’t miss it.
The plot is a ‘simple’ one: it revolves around two men, supposedly spending their twilight years in a luxurious seniors living residence, Gateway Gardens. Also working at the residence is Barry’s daughter, in her late 20s, who becomes, in some ways, pivotal in the relationship that develops between the two men.
That’s the bare bones of the plot line.
A bit like saying the Golden Gate is a sort of bridge.
With Foster’s extraordinary sense of character and his uncanny ability to write the way real people genuinely speak and relate to each other, Jonas and Barry finds such laughter, so many surprises, such poignancy in that ‘simple’ plot that the audience is wooed and won from the moment the lights go up.
Jonas, the former actor, who proclaims that “my field is embracing life” and Barry, the ex-dentist who sourly describes the residence as a “gateway to the boneyard, could not be more different. They are a study in contrasts.
And playwright Foster provides them with lines that are sharp and witty and, more often than not, deeply revealing. There is a kind of poetry tucked away in Foster dialogue. And his comic skewering that can leave audiences helpless with laughter.
Barry has about given up on life. He figures, despite the determinedly cheery cajoling of his daughter, Rosie, that he is just putting in time at the Home until he inevitably dies, and probably of a heart attack. Barry is determined to be surly and negative. He doesn’t want to do anything, join anything, make any effort to establish friendships. “A fitness class in a seniors’ complex,” he grumps. “There’s a definition of futile.”
Jonas takes huge bites out of life. Years on the stage have given him a vista vision view of the world: every second has to be lived flat out, with enthusiasm. Love the ladies. Love conversation and good wine. And along the way, love the occasional scheme.
He simply will not sit around waiting for the Reaper to arrive at the back door. “If I crash and burn, at least I’ll go out with a bang.”
And his latest project turns out to be curmudgeon Barry
To Barry’s “I may have to start living my life vicariously through you,” Jonas retorts, “Live your own life.”
Even Rosie, who has secrets of her own, will fall into Jonas’ “sphere” and father and daughter will discover a great deal about what it is to love and accept each other.
Be ready to laugh uncontrollably at Jonas and Barry in the Home. One cannot reveal all the goings on at Gateway Gardens, but suffice it to say that scheming and shenanigans (and movies!) take on a whole new meaning when these two retirees join up.
Jonas and Barry eventually convince us that you never want to be caught on the couch in a soiled bathrobe when life is meant to be lived. And yet, as this play gently and touchingly also illustrates, living is trying to “outrun death.” And no one can run forever.
Director Derek Ritschel brings his original cast to the stage at the Playhouse. Working with one set, an outdoor patio at Gateway Gardens, Ritschel’s production is never claustrophobic or small: a lot of life takes place on that patio.
He has a powerful cast to work with. Norm Foster is the debonair Jonas, David Nairn a crotchety Barry, and Perrie Olthius is the loving Rosie. These actors’ timing, their expressions, the ease with which they build characters we come to love is a delight for audience.
And when we get to “the Home”, as many of us will down the road, we can only pray that a Jonas and a Barry and a Rosie are waiting there for us.
Jonas and Barry in the Home runs at Upper Canada Playhouse until October 2. For tickets and information, contact the box office at 613-543-3713.