A son, Drew, returns to his estranged father's Saskatchewan ranch to find that his dad, Harry, has taken up with the neighbour lady, Gin. Harry is equally surprised to find that Drew has been married and has fathered a child. Oh, it's awkward all right. The family dynamics are pitchfork sharp.
Drew's aloofness, Harry's grumpiness and Gin's prattle build the sure-footed dialogue into a drama by Norm Foster, Mending Fences, to be presented by Driftwood Players, opening Oct. 17 at the Heritage Playhouse.
This is one of Norm Foster's best, said co-producer Ingrid Bilton (along with Bill Forst), who calls the play a dramedy, a humorous drama. Director Bob Hunt would agree. He's directed several of Foster's plays now, but Hunt likes this one best. Foster is a Canadian playwright with 40 plays in his portfolio and is mostly known for his way with wry humour. Driftwood produced another popular Foster production, The Melville Boys, in 2008.
This play has universal themes, Hunt says, and it builds. Drew's mother left the farm when she couldn't stand the lonely life any more: nine years of living 25 miles away from the nearest neighbour. When she left Harry, she took their son away from his father, an act that had serious repercussions in their lives.
Both father and son are stubborn and don't know how to reveal tenderness. Little gestures of love are mistaken as stupid. Harry tries to give his son his only family heirloom, a hockey card, but Drew is unmoved. Ditto regarding their interactions with women. ("We take their classes but we die before we graduate," ponders Harry.)
It's true that the audience will have to stay on their toes, since the scenes flash from past to present and each of the three-person cast plays three roles. Susan Rule is Gin. Audiences will remember her as an accomplished professional in previous productions of Our Town and Little Shop of Horrors.
Mac Dodge plays Harry, the second time we've seen him in a grumpy old man role — the last was The Gin Game. He's convincing as the taciturn rancher who would rather mend a fence than greet his son. Patrick Visser plays Drew, as a youngster and as a 24-year-old. New to Coast theatre, Visser delighted audiences in Coast Community Productions' Will You Still Love Me in the Morning.
Linda McTurk is set designer, Sandi McGinnis is on technical and Suzanne Dunkerton-Pemberton is stage manager.
Mending Fences opens on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 8 p.m. with a pay as you can showing and runs evenings Oct. 18 to 20 and again Oct. 24 to 27 with a matinée on Sunday, Oct. 21. Tickets for $20 are at Gaia's Fair Trade and Laedeli in Gibsons and the Visitor Info Centre in Sechelt. For more information about the play or special showings, call Forst at 604-886-2543 or see www.driftwoodplayers.ca