The Melville Boys: Adequate production of play past its prime

Reviewed by Iris Winston

By Norm Foster, directed by Steve Truelove, a Kanata Theatre Production

The cottage is as much part of the Canadian psyche as hockey, so little wonder playwright Norm Foster set The Melville Boys at a lakeside retreat.

The second play of his long writing career, this dark comedy carries the signature one-liners that resulted in Foster being called the Canadian Neil Simon. It also has a familiar sit-com approach veiled with a coating of tragedy.

While The Melville Boys, first performed in 1984, has demonstrated its staying power over the last three decades, the many empty seats at Kanata Theatre on opening night could be an indicator that it is time to put this one to rest. It is not so much that the play is dated. Rather, it is the tugging between comedy and tragedy and the stereotypical character style that cause ongoing problems with any production.

The characters in question are two brothers and two sisters, two responsible and caring and two irresponsible and self-absorbed. They pair according to type. The tragedy — the impending death of the good older brother — intervenes. Eventually, the younger brother will accept the burden of future responsibility and the older good sister will learn to move on to a better future. The fate of the selfish younger sister is left unresolved.

First-time director Steve Truelove delivers a fairly competent production with the aid of an appropriate set from Jim Clarke and a cast clear about the motivation and relationships of their characters. But, given the nature of the script, it is difficult to create much excitement or move beyond a workmanlike and slow-paced show.

Amusing and witty at times, though not noteworthy, the Kanata Theatre production of The Melville Boys is quite entertaining for those who have not seen it either recently or ever before, but something of a bore for regular theatregoers.

The Melville Boys continues at Kanata Theatre to April 8.

Director: Steve Truelove
Assistant director: Alain Chamsi
Set: Jim Clarke
Lighting: Torin Zaugg
Sound: Justin Ladelpha
Costumes: Rachel Worton

Cast:
Owen Melville……………………………………..James Renaud
Lee Melville……………………………………….Solly Balbaa
Mary……………………………………………….Stephanie Beaulne
Loretta……………………………………………..Shauna MacEachern


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