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'Looking' helps audience search for love and acceptance

Masks with theatre concept
Masks with theatre concept

On Thursday night, the Northern Lights Theatre Company took their audience on a warm-hearted search for love and acceptance.

Their vehicle of choice was Norm Foster’s, “Looking.” Foster, one of Canada’s most prodigious playwrights, has a very special ability to create characters that are familiar and genuine. We recognize their flaws and desires, and most importantly, we recognize their humanity. The characters that inhabit Foster’s world are the characters that inhabit our world, and you can’t help but feel the affection the playwright has for each of his creations.
The 4-person cast of “Looking,” obviously feel that same affection for the characters they embody and for one another as there was a gentle and easy comradery between everyone on stage. Lester Simmons played the oddly loveable and indefatigable, Andy. Facing an uncertain future in business and in matters of the heart, he managed to keep moving forward and Simmons personified this motion early in the show by continually moving, stretching, twisting, and, of course, singing. Val, played by Ruth Simmons, was desperate to find something special and to a certain extent was living vicariously through her best friend, particularly when it came to realizing her most carnal desires. She showed a lovely vulnerability when she rushed from the gym to Andy’s house to repair damage she had caused to her friend’s relationship. There was an instance during this scene that conjured up Duse’s blush, a seemingly genuine and revealing moment that indicated an unconscious understanding that she is actually attracted to Andy. She arrived, sweaty and out of breath, and after some time she removed her head band and for a moment started to adjust her hair. Her expression and actions were quite telling. She cared about how she looked in front of this man even though she vehemently denied any interest at all. A brief, revealing insight allowed the audience to feel something was happening even though the characters were unaware.
The cast was rounded out by Steve Drover as Matt, and Sheila Drover as Nina. At the start of the show, both characters are unaffected by notions of love, and more inclined to search for a way into someone’s bed than they are to look for a way into another’s heart. Ms. Drover is a strong presence as the brazen cop who uses her handcuffs as more than a means to restrain bad guys. Despite this “tough” exterior the moment that resonated with me occurred when she reflected on the mistakes she made with Matt, a man she genuinely cares for. She was seated in the gym relating the tale to Val and her legs pulled under her, she bent forward and seemed to become smaller, as if she was cradling herself to find some comfort while physically reflecting the guilt she was feeling. Mr. Drover physically embodied the absolute certainty his character felt regarding issues of love and sex with an unwavering stillness, particularly at the top of the show, that played well against the constant motion of his friend, Andy.
One thing I felt could have been more fully realized were the relationship dynamics. When individuals care about one another, the ways these characters obviously do, they can get heated. Voices can rise and fall and we can occupy each other’s space. I was hoping to see more of these highs and lows as the relationships played out. Craig Robinson’s direction forced the actors into confined spaces which is quite appropriate when dealing with subjects of sex and love and I believe his blocking choices do offer great opportunities for further developing the subtleties of the relationships. Overall, another solid festival entry.

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