Owen Sound Little Theatre director Bill Murphy says he thinks he has found a fitting climax to the theatre group’s 58th annual playbill, which has been dubbed a season of comedies.
On Thursday, Norm Foster’s The Long Weekend will open on the Roxy stage in downtown Owen Sound, where it will close out what has been a very funny and very successful season for the organization.
“We have had a great year and everybody has loved it,” said Murphy. “There isn’t an actor who doesn’t like performing in comedy. It is so gratifying.”
Murphy called The Long Weekend ideal fodder for summer theatre, in that it is “light, breezy and funny as heck.”
“The play is so clever and so funny I don’t think I have been on a show where the crew has laughed so much consistently. They hear the same jokes over and over in rehearsal and they still laugh. I still laugh and that is a tribute to both the skill of the writer, Norm Foster, and the skill of the performers.”
The Long Weekend is the fourth and final production of the season, following up on The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which showed in late March and early April. Prior to that, Shorthanded took to the stage in February, while Noises Off kicked the season off in November.
The Long Weekend first hit the stage in 1994, after being written by Foster, who is Canada’s most produced playwright, having done dozens of plays in all.
Murphy called Foster’s works brilliant.
“He is Canadian, but you wouldn’t know from the play that he is Canadian. It is very universal,” said Murphy. “There are no little tidbits that I can think of – no place names, no events – that are specifically Canadian.”
Described as “a sexy, smart-talking, plot-twisting comedy about couples,” the play is set in the country home of lawyer Max (played by Jace Whaley) and psychologist Wynn Truman (Debbie Morris).
The couple invites their friends Roger (Rick Ringer) and Abby Nash (Samantha Colwell-Castles) up for a weekend where the true nature of their relationships presents itself. The truth and lies of their friendship comes to the surface during the visit, which includes plenty of surprises along the way.
Murphy said the play is really Foster’s take on contemporary couples.
They deal with issues such as mid-life crisis, job changes, image, materialism, infidelity, fidelity, sexual performance and the state of their marriage.
Murphy said the issues tackled make it ideal for anyone who is married, has been married or has been in a relationship.
“People will relate to the situation,” said Murphy. “There are those things that happened years ago that you couldn’t quite get past and sort of bubble up every now and then. Even old friends have little things sometimes that grate on them and the show is based on a lot of those.”
Murphy said he is happy directing any number of people, but the small cast of four was nice to work with. They all have experience in theatre, with OSLT and other organizations.
Among Whaley’s roles are Sir Toby Belch in Theatre Georgian Bay’s production of Twelfth Night and Mortimer Brewster in Meaford Community Theatre’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace.
Morris, who has most recently been leading the props department at OSLT, has a number of acting gigs with the city theatre as well, including roles as Ruth in Blithe Spirit and Brooke in An Act of the Imagination.
Colwell-Castles is returning to the OSLT for her fourth production, most recently as Shirley in Shirley Valentine last year.
Ringer has performed with OSLT in The Mousetrap and White Christmas.
“They are all quite wonderful. I am having a good time with everybody,” said Murphy.
Along with the cast, Murphy once again has an experienced OSLT crew behind him.
Kathleen Murphy is producer, while Connie Vincent is stage manager, with the assistance of Paula Mercer and Lisa Miller.
Joan Spence leads the wardrobe department, Mike Tettenborn is on sound, Catherine Tilley leads the lighting department and Jack Goad leads props.
And Murphy said he is blown away by the set, which has been designed by Paul Nicholson.
“He wanted to create an expensive-looking, brand new country property,” said Murphy. “He came to our first meeting with architectural digest magazines and showed us a few things and the direction he would like to go in.”
The stage has been transformed into a modern home that Murphy said he himself could live in. The set is finished off with artwork from the Walter’s Falls Group of Artist, while most of the furniture and decor comes from Home Decor and More by Rhonda Kirk.
“It is great to be able to showcase them as well,” Murphy said.
Before he directed this play, Murphy had never before seen The Long Weekend on stage, which is always the case with the plays he chooses to lead for OSLT.
“I like to do things sort of sight unseen,” said Murphy. “It is great for me. I am not sort of copying what someone else has done. I like to create the movement and work with the characters and so on.”
In the case of the Long Weekend. An OSLT member who had seen it told Murphy how funny it was and told him he had to read it. He went on Foster’s website, ordered a reading copy of the play, read through it and knew it was one that he wanted to tackle.
“I laughed all the way through it and guffawed at a lot of things. There are a lot of belly laughs in the show, Murphy said. “I thought it would be great for us.”
Murphy said that by picking a production he hasn’t seen before allows it to become more of a collaborative work with the actors to create the characters.
“We talk a lot about motivation, what is everybody thinking at that point, subtext and all of those things that we explore a lot in rehearsal,” Murphy said.
Once the run at the Roxy is done, Murphy said he would enjoy taking in another production somewhere else to see a different director’s take on it.
“You see how other people direct a show, what they bring and what they get out of the actors,” said Murphy. “I would love to see another production, but not until we are done.”
The Long Weekend opens Thursday and runs until Saturday, and then continues on June 5-8, beginning at 7:30 p.m. each night. Tickets are $25 for adults, $23 for seniors and $15 for students and can be purchased at roxytheatre.ca, by calling 519-371-2833 or stopping by the box office at 251 9th St. E.