Upper Canada Playhouse’s Lunenburg a comic gem

Left to right, Jamie Williams as Charlie, Debra Hale as Natalie and Kate Egan Veinotte as Iris in the Upper Canada Playhouse production of Lunenburg. (Submitted)

MORRISBURG – How do men and women really relate to each other?

Really, how do they?

In his new comedy Lunenburg, a play with a big heart, Norm Foster explores that question and does it through three genuine people we all could wish were friends of ours. Director Donnie Bowes once said that Norm Foster has “things to say about life: he uses his sense of humour to do this.”

This production of Lunenburg, on stage at Upper Canada Playhouse until August 25, wonderfully illustrates Foster’s understanding of real people.

The plot of the play is not complex.

Iris, recently widowed, with her friend Natalie in tow, has flown from Maine to the Maritimes, to an ocean and sun lit small Nova Scotia town called Lunenburg. It appears that her late husband owned a house and property there – something she knew nothing about. And a few more days in Lunenburg swiftly convince Iris that there is actually a great deal more about her Robert that she obviously didn’t know.

The two women meet next door neighbour, carpenter, and occasional incorrigible flirt, Charlie Butler. It seems that Charlie knew ‘Bobby’ too, and for the American visitors, the mystery of Robert/Bobby deepens.

A play like Foster’s Lunenburg relies on the strength of its characters for its comedy, its insights, its moments that touch the heart. Fortunately actors Kate Egan Veinotte, Jamie Williams and Debra Hale deliver stand out performances.

Iris (Kate Veinotte) is distressed, confused, lost. The Robert she married does not appear to be the same man other people knew.

As she rather desperately says to Charlie, “He told you he loved flying?” “Yes.” “But he never told you about me?” Charlie, after a telling pause: “Well, he really loved flying.”

Veinotte makes us care that Iris has been hurt. And, in the course of the play, as she comes to terms with her relationship and her loss, we find ourselves rooting for her. In spite of it all, this Iris is plucky!

Charlie (Jamie Williams) and Natalie (Debra Hale), both divorced, explore another kind of relationship. No question, though, sparks definitely fly when these two meet on that Lunenburg back porch.

However, as Foster gently illustrates, men and women being what they are, the course of ‘true love’ will not run smoothly – if it runs at all.

Natalie: “So you’re a confirmed bachelor? Were you ever married?”

Charlie: “Yes. That’s what confirmed it.”

Charlie and Natalie circle each other warily. They bicker. They have fun making up. Both have been hurt in the past, and both carry some real baggage with them. Yet that pull, and those “pheromones” are very strong.

“If a man wants what I’ve got, he’ll have to earn it,” Natalie declares. And Iris wryly says of Charlie, “I think Charlie is exactly as he appears. For a man, that’s outstanding.”

Will these two strong individuals actually ‘find’ each other?

There is so much laughter in this play. Audiences are quickly caught up in Foster’s witty dialogue, and in the sheer joy of getting to spend a little time with these three people. Even Lunenburg itself, between the ocean and the sky, has a way of working a certain magic. After all, people can’t just sit around waiting for their lives to change, “we need to change them ourselves,” Iris says.
John Thompson’s set and Sean Free’s lighting perfectly capture a sense of the serenity and warmth of a small Maritime town.

Iris, Charlie and Natalie are people you want to get to know. Take in Norm Foster’s gentle comedy, Lunenburg, now on stage at Upper Canada Playhouse, and join them on that back porch.

Why you might even get to meet Charlie’s dog, Schooner.

Since you’re here…

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