“Norm Foster is a Canadian gem,” said actor Melanie Janzen, who will be starring in the Upper Canada Playhouse’s production of Here on the Flight Path, on stage at the Playhouse starting July 5. “His plays can be almost deceptive, light and hilarious, but there is real meat to them. Norm looks at the need for men and women to connect and to find meaning in their relationships.”
“The main reason that Norm gets laughs is no one writes battle of the sexes comedies like he does,” said Playhouse artistic director, Donnie Bowes. “He’s a funny, funny writer, and when you watch the audience, you can see that both men and women are totally enjoying the play. I think a real case can be made that Norm Foster should be recognized as Canada’s national playwright.”
Audiences should eagerly anticipate one of Foster’s most delightful plays, Here on the Flight Path, which opens at the Playhouse next week. As well as Janzen, the production stars Jamie Williams as John, with direction by Walter Learning, both of them familiar names and familiar faces to area crowds.
This is, in fact, the third production of Flight Path Walter Learning has directed. (“And I mean to keep doing it until I get it right,” he declared to much laughter at the press conference). He described the upcoming show as “a joy”, and “enormous fun” and is delighted to be working with Janzen and Williams again. The three previously shared the Playhouse stage in The Long Weekend and There Goes the Bride.
Here on the Flight Path takes place on two side by side fourth floor balconies, very near a major airport. John, played by Jamie Williams, is a journalist with a “fantasy about writing a novel,” the actor explained. “He’s newly divorced and rather easily distracted by women. On a superficial level, he is interested in dating the three women who move into the apartment next to him, but with each woman, the relationship will go much deeper.”
Foster’s play presents an intriguing challenge for its female lead. All three of the women in the show are played by the same woman.
“It is incredibly exciting, bringing three characters to life,” Melanie Janzen said. “They are three very different women, with three very different personalities. When you play a single role, you sort of ‘hack into’ the motivating factors. The challenge here is that each of these women has a different motivation. And I have to establish each woman with the audience right away.”
Costuming (controlled by experienced stage manager Jackie McCormick) and the swift changes made on Sean Free’s innovative set during the show, help in the illusion that these are three different ladies.
“I have 14 costume changes,” Janzen laughed. “It’s lots of fun for the audience to see them. I think all those clothing changes will be fun for me too…eventually,” she added to laughter.
Melanie Janzen and Jamie Williams are husband and wife in real life. With their 10-year-old daughter, they make their home in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Both have worked extensively in theatres around Canada and at Stratford and the Shaw Festival. They describe Upper Canada Playhouse as a theatre that they love coming back to.
“Actually, the Playhouse is as close to a repertory theatre as I’ve seen in regional theatre,” director Learning said. “We have actors working here over a period of time, developing a sense of ease with each other and a shorthand on stage. There is a real feeling of family here.”
“In a great show like Flight Path, people will laugh hysterically throughout the play, because Foster is simply so funny,” Donnie Bowes said.
“Foster’s writing in Here on the Flight Path is so good, we actors just have to do our job,” Williams added. “His dialogue is wonderful and realistic and the laughter is right there in his words.”
Norm Foster’s comedy Here on the Flight Path runs from July 5-29 at Upper Canada Playhouse. For information and tickets for evening shows and matinees, contact 613-543-3713.