OLT does itself proud with Norm Foster’s Old Love

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo courtesy of Ottawa Little Theatre

Of course there’s comedy in Norm Foster’s 2008 play, Old Love, What else should we expect? After all it is a Norm Foster play. But there’s also wisdom and gentleness here — qualities that are abundantly present in Venetia Lawless’s thoughtful and beautifully modulated production for Ottawa Little Theatre.

It’a not quite right to suggest that Old Love is about a 30-year infatuation or even an obsession. Such words cheapen the emotions that the aging Bud has long nursed for Molly, the inaccessible — but, for him, mysteriously enchanting — wife of his boss.

Let’s just say that Bud has always had a “thing” for her, that their fleeting encounters over the years have left a powerful imprint on his memory, even though — and here’s the sad irony — she scarcely remembers them herself. Nevertheless, once she is widowed, Bud summons up the courage to invite her to dinner. That he does so at a reception following her husband’s funeral may seem crass — but it isn’t really, given the kind of guy that Bud is.

There’s a fumbling charm to Geoff Gruson’s performance as Bud, a gaucherie that takes possession of him when it comes to the vision he has of Molly. It’s a flawed vision: In Dianna Renee Yorke’s outstanding portrayal, Molly is tart-tongued and cynical over a failed marriage, unprepared to fulfil the conventional image of a mourning widow, but bruised sufficiently by her life experiences to distrust entering another relationship — especially with a persistent suitor who seems like a stranger, even  if he did work for her husband. There’s both edge and vulnerability in this woman. Compare it with the puppy-dog likability of Gruson’s Bud and you wonder — what on earth can these two have in common?

Foster’s script, attentive to the mysteries if attraction, is warm and funny, but there’s a tinge of melancholy here in his glimpse of lives running out and in need of one more chance at love.

The play moves seamlessly back and forth in time, offering key moments in the disintegration of two marriages while also offering glimpses, in Bud and Molly, of two individuals in need.

Solid support for the two main performances comes from Susan Howard, versatile and confident in portraying six women from Bud’s previous life, and Jarrod Chambers, cutting a nice contrast both as Molly’s late husband and their grown son. The people at OLT should be proud of this one.

Old Love by Norm Foster

Ottawa little Theatre to June 24.

Director:  Venetia Lawless

Set: Tom Pidgeon

Lighting: John Solman

Sound: Bradford MacKinlay

Costumes: Glynis Ellens

Cast:

Bud Mitchell…………………………………….Geoff Gruson

Molly…………………………………………….Dianna Renée Yorke

Kitty et al………………………………………..Susan Howard

Arthur et al……………………………………….Jarrod Chambers


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