Guy talk, old friends, and 18 rounds of golf mark the perfect way to spend a summer afternoon. It’s also the perfect set up for the Peterborough Theatre Guild’s latest production of Norm Foster’s The Foursome, being performed on the Guild stage until Saturday, July 22nd.
The first of a double shot of Norm Foster plays being presented by the Guild this summer, The Foursome is directed by Ray Henderson and features Mike Judson, Dan Smith, Aaron Goedhuis, and Sean Quinlan in a fast and witty comedy filled with friendships, rivalries, and lots of laughter.
First staged in 1998, The Foursome has become one of Norm Foster’s most famous and performed productions. Taking place the morning after their 15-year university class reunion, four friends assemble for a seven a.m. tee time at the local golf course: Rick (Mike Judson), an over-confident bachelor who is a boat salesman in Florida; Cam (Aaron Goedhuis), an anxiety-ridden TV ad salesman; Ted (Dan Smith), a dour-faced cynic who sells computers despite knowing nothing about them; and Donnie (Sean Quinlan), a sweet-natured family-oriented man who lives vicariously through his five children.
Upon first coming together, it seems the four men have little in common other than faded memories of the past. However, as the game begins, testosterone takes over and old rivalries resurface. As the men go from hole to hole, the stories of their lives are soon revealed to the audience, as they engage in various topics including kids, wives, lovers, Buddhism, vasectomies, and Brazilian Pepper Trees.
Director Ray Henderson has developed a large following of fans, primarily through his work headlining local improv group The Citiots. If you’re a fan of Ray’s work, then you know what to expect and you are obviously going to enjoy The Foursome. But even if you aren’t a fan, you will find The Foursome to be enjoyable summer theatre. The show is entertaining and a real crowd pleaser.
The success of The Foursome comes from Foster’s quirky script combined with the cast’s top-notch performances.
While Mike Judson and Dan Smith are Ray’s long-time collaborators in The Citiots, Aaron Goedhuis and Sean Quinlan are fantastic additions to the cast that round out the group perfectly. Together, the four actors form a well-oiled quartet. Each of them not only supports one another on stage, but plays off of one another with ease, creating their own unique camaraderie.
Although Mike is best known in Peterborough as the former weatherman at CHEX, over the last few years he has proven himself to be a capable actor who I always enjoy watching on stage. Mike plays Rick, the overconfident leader of the foursome. Likeably unlikeable, Rick is charismatic and quick witted but also arrogant and smug.
We all have known people like Rick in our lives — guys who stick in your craw but somehow have enough charm and charisma that you still hang around with them. Mike makes the character work by creating a sort of hyper-parody of his former television persona, which is entertaining to watch and prevents Rick from being completely repugnant. It’s a great role for Mike, and another solid contribution to his ever-growing theatrical resume.
Dan Smith gets a great character part in the role of Ted, tailor made to fit Dan’s brand of physical and vocal comedy. Filled with dead-pan delivery and hot one-liners, Dan is another of my favourites who the audience loves to watch him perform.
Because it’s a character part, Ted often goes over the top, but a hint of Dan’s dramatic abilities peek through the comedic antics, especially during a poignant moment in the second act. Energetic, naturally funny, and always entertaining, Dan gives another excellent performance.
Aaron Goedhuis’ character Cam is more of a supportive role, but he has key moments in the plot, making him a fully charged lightning rod of crackling anxiety ready to go off at any moment with dramatic results. Aaron’s character has the most surprises, and is also the one that seems to actually grow as the show goes on. When you think you have Cam figured out, you probably don’t.
Sean Quinlan gives the stand-out performance of the night as Donnie, the true heart of the show. This is the first time I’ve seen Sean on stage and hopefully not the last. The most natural of the four performers in the show, Sean seems to drift through the show as if he is truly living it.
An instant audience favourite, Sean gives the most endearing performance, including a moment during the second act where the audience breaks out in applause. Sean steals every scene with his good-natured and seamless performance. His performance is wonderful, and I look forward to seeing what Sean does next.
Traditionally, The Foursome is performed as a comedy tempered by high drama created through year-old tensions between the four characters, including poignant reveals that take place during the 18 holes. Part of the journey of The Foursome is how the four characters evolve from the first to the final hole. In the Guild production, despite the fantastic performances by the cast and the moments filled with dramatic pause, the drama takes a backseat to the big laughs, muting the character evolution.
While the choice to focus more on the punchy comedy over the drama perhaps changes the tone of the play from its original intentions, this mattered little to the appreciative opening night audience. Director and cast deliver an engaging and entertaining show filled with genuine laughter and show-stopping applause. The character’s personal stories are consistently entertaining, the actors are always enjoyable to watch, and the dialogue is quick and witty and executed with superb comic timing.
Light-hearted summer theatre fare, The Foursome scores a hole in one and will not disappoint. The production runs through until July 22nd at the Peterborough Theatre Guild (364 Rogers St., Peterborough, 705-745-4211). Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $11 for students, available at the Guild box office or online theatreguild.org.