Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

 

Are the crashes of thunder in the Kanata Theatre production of Maggie’s Getting Married the director’s way of ensuring that the audience doesn’t miss any verbal bombshells in the dialogue? Maybe such a device could be justified in a drama with an obscure plot line and archaic language. But for a Norm Foster comedy?

Foster, often called Canada’s answer to Neil Simon, generally writes sit-coms, simple in language and often simplistic in plot. His plays offer the comfort of familiarity. Via light comedies, sometimes with serious undercurrents, audiences see themselves, their neighbours, aspects of their lives — exaggerated just a little.

Such is the tone of Maggie’s Getting Married, first performed in 2000. Set in the Duncan family’s kitchen on the night before the wedding, the focus is on sibling rivalry, pre-wedding jitters and family quirks.

Despite the proximity of the nuptials, good girl Maggie fears that bad sister Wanda will steal the groom. Their father, Tom, worries about his own mortality and mother, Cass, takes refuge in religion, while worrying about whether Wanda intends to sleep with her actor boyfriend, Axel, under her roof.

Funny, occasionally crude, and resorting to a convenient but not entirely believable journey to a happy ending, this Foster comedy works only when the family unit is totally convincing. That was not the case with Maggie’s family, on opening night at least.

Only Linda Webster, as the mother of the bride, totally establishes her credibility as mother, wife, hostess and family kingpin.

Sisters Maggie (Sherry Thurig) and Wanda (Tara Sisson) have their moments but are not entirely at ease and Tom (Ian Stauffer) appears stiff and uncomfortable in the role most of the time. (In a previous version at another theatre, Thurig played Wanda with great panache.)

In a stylized performance, Tim Finnigan, as Axel, has fun with his role, while Richard Groen as Russell, fulfils the basic requirements of steadfast and plodding fiancé.

Director Dorothy Gardner tries to occupy her cast during long speeches by having them play pool, but such business is distracting especially when repeated too often. (Not to mention concern about the possibility of torn felt.) While the direction sometimes appears a little heavyhanded, the opening series of wedding songs and snatches of movies and the closing in wedding gear are attractive touches — the last observing Foster’s aim of sending audiences away happy and smiling.

Maggie’s Getting Married continues at Kanata Theatre to November 19, 2011.

Maggie’s Getting Married

at the Kanata Theatre

By Norm Foster

Director: Dorothy Gardner

Set and lighting: Paul Gardner

Costumes: Dorothy Gardner

Sound: Gerry Thompson

Kanata Theatre

Cast:

Maggie……………………………………..Sherry Thurig

Wanda………………………………………Tara Sisson

Cass…………………………………………Linda Webster

Tom…………………………………………Ian Stauffer

Axel…………………………………………Tim Finnigan

Russell………………………………………Richard Groen