The Foster Festival is up and running with the production of three plays by Norm Foster. The festival is rightly proud of the fact that it is the only Canadian theatre festival named after a living Canadian playwright. The choice of Foster is brilliant. He is prolific (according to the Foster Festival, he has written almost 80 plays) and a master of gentle comedies that are perfect for a community theatre, steps away from the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-lake.
Its first production for 2023 is Danny & Delilah, a new play by Foster that is gentle, pleasant, well done and very, very funny.
The production is done in the Festival’s new venue, the well-appointed Mandeville Theatre in the superb grounds of Ridley College, St. Catharines.
Danny & Delilah takes place in a small town where Daniel Becker (Peter Millard), a retired widower, lives with his attractive daughter Sherry (Erin MacKinnon), a guidance counsellor at the local high school. Sherry invites Delilah, (Taran Bamrah) a student from her school to spend a couple weeks with Beckers. Delilah is Pakistani and the culture shock comes quickly and, in the hands of Foster, hilariously.
The fourth character in the play is the Beckers’ neighbour, Muriel (Karen Wood) who comes fully armed to be outrageously funny.
The humour at the beginning comes from the old attitudes of the father clashing with his daughter’s views. She is starting to date a fellow teacher and tells her father that modern
attitudes are very different from what he may recall. In fact, a man and a woman who go out on a date once, twice, may end up, to put it bluntly, having sex on the third date. Just imagine the father’s reaction to that idea.
Foster balances the comedy with reminders of human tragedy and in this play to Daniel’s private grief over the unexpected death of his best friend from a heart attack and memories of the death of his son.
Then Muriel arrives and unleashes her hilarity. Her husband left her for a redhead thirteen years and and Muriel is now, I don’t know how to put this politely, well, she arrives hormonally armed to perform coitus or just plain horny. Not just a polite desire for erotic pleasure but raging raging desire for immediate fulfilment of her desires. And no man is safe from her predatory sexual appetite. That means Daniel.
Foster is a master of double entendres and he delivers them without compunction. Muriel had Italian salami that kept her up all night. She and Daniel go for physical fitness consisting of push-ups and thrusts. And many more. Karen Wood is so hilarious as Muriel I felt that she was overdoing it but there is no doubt that she brought in the laughs. Director Marcia Kash may be allowing her to overact but the audience laughed and lapped it up.
But Muriel is not all sex. She is playing in a production of Nine Angry Men. Well, things happen and jurors 10 to 12 can’t continue. Wait a minute make that Eight Angry Men. Someone else dropped out.
Bamrah as Delilah is a nice, pretty girl and she “clashes” with Daniel and the disagreement needs to be worked out. We see an outpouring of humanity, decency and reconciliation in a delightful result.
Erin MacKinnon as Sherry is an attractive character who combines love and tolerance for her father while asserting her independence. She is sympathetic and funny.
Peter Millard is an old hand at comedy and does wonderful work as Daniel. He is very funny and his mantra when accused of making a faux pas is “I am 72, you know” and he tells us that it works. He joins in the delivery of double entendres.
The single set by Brian Dudkiewicz consists of a nicely appointed living room with a couch, some furniture, exit doors and stairs leading to the second floor of the house.
The directing by Marcia Kash is excellent. She takes advantage of the actors’ talents for broad comedy and well developed decent people on stage and the creation of a situation in a small town that is attractive and funny.
The result is thoroughly enjoyable theatre.
Danny & Delilah by Norm Foster plays until March 26, 2023, at the Mandeville Theatre, Ridley College, 2 Ridley Road, St. Catharines. Fosterfestival.com/