"Foster strikes a chord with audiences all over the English-speaking world due to his striking sense of compassionate realism." -- Halifax Chronicle Herald

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Here On The Flight Path
Hilda's Yard
On A First Name Basis
The Foursome
The Melville Boys
The Love List
The Affections Of May
Bedtime Stories
Storm Warning
Wrong For Each Other
Maggie's Getting Married
The Motor Trade
Jupiter In July
Jonas And Barry In The Home
Old Love
The Ladies Foursome
Mending Fences
Skin Flick
Screwball Comedy
Ethan Claymore's Christmas
The Last Resort
Kiss The Moon, Kiss The Sun
The Long Weekend
Drinking Alone
Jasper Station
Jenny's House Of Joy
Dear Santa



Review: ‘Halfway There’ is Norm Foster at his most beguiling

Laughter and tears will send you out of Lighthouse Festival Theatre with a warm glow

By Gary Smith, Special to the Spectator, Fri., July 8, 2022

Want to laugh until your sides ache? Want to cry until your heart breaks? Want to see Canada’s most prolific playwright at the very top of his game? Want to see a cast committed to theatre as a place of moving and insightful entertainment? OK, so enough with the questions. Go grab your favourite device and book seats for “Halfway There.”

This wonderful Norm Foster comedy, with its sly comic invention and generous dollop of truth, is one of the best things I’ve seen all year. That includes Broadway, London’s West End and the Stratford Festival. It’s in Port Dover at The Lighthouse Festival Theatre, the home of Canadian theatre comedies. But oh my, it’s so much more than you might think.

Some years back Foster wrote a play about male bonding called “The Foursome.” Well, now he’s done something even more winning. With “Halfway There,” he’s written a rueful, first-rate love story about women. I don’t think anyone’s done this sort of thing better. It’s “Steel Magnolias,” “Morning’s At Seven” and “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” all rolled into one. Except for one thing special. It’s uniquely Foster in every possible way.

Laughs, and believe me there are dozens and dozens of them, punctuate some of the warmest and loving moments I can remember on a stage. Yet, these whoppers that make you laugh until you can’t take it anymore never encroach on the humanity and the truth of the play. Foster’s characters grow naturally out of a series of crises and challenges that face Rita (the wonderful Susan Henley), Vi (the irrepressible Debra Hale) and Mary Ellen (Melodee Finlay, one time Queen of Port Dover Lighthouse comedies, who is happily back with a vengeance). These three lovable women are a triumvirate to reckon with. Their performances bristle with a kind of exquisite energy and truth that radiates from the stage like a warm hug and a great big kiss.

These three friends face the losses in their lives with a will to shrug off sorrow and the strength to hold on tight to what makes them strong. They are so real you want to join their group hugs on stage, grab their hands and take them all out for a drink and a fish fry at Dover’s vintage Erie Beach Hotel. They aren’t the centre of the story here, but they are the steamrolling heart of Foster’s wonderful play. They are what gives it its joy, laughter and tender moments of female bonding, moments that transcend life’s sometimes awkward and painful annoyances.
We are in a little diner in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia. That’s the place that is halfway to the North Pole. Now you get the play’s title, right? But that’s only a small part of what it really means. More about that later. Into this evocative spot — where waitress Janine Babineau, played smartly by Kristen Da Silva, dreams about finding real love and a hold on life — walks handsome Sean Merritt, who’s terrific as a visiting doctor in town for a month or two, working at the local hospital. And isn’t he just about perfect in a quiet, no-nonsense way. Just maybe, he’s what Janine is looking for, someone to give her life meaning. Foster allows these two recalcitrant lovers a chance to dance around a little, until they finally dance together, of course, close and personal, right there on the little diner’s patchwork floor.

Da Silva and Brad Austin are so perfect as Foster’s should-be lovers that we root for them from the first time likable Sean walks through the diner door. But then, that’s the secret of Foster’s play, isn’t it? We root for all of these characters. We long for them to find happiness. We laugh when they shrug their shoulders at life, and we get out the tissue when life kicks them in the rear. “Halfway There” is just that kind of lovely play, old-fashioned and truthful, warm and wise, funny and touching, and never in a contrived or tiresome lesson-teaching way.

Like Foster, Finlay, Henley and Hale are at the top of their game, making every moment of this glorious play touching. This kind of acting only happens when a strong director is at the helm working a kind of behind-the-scenes miracle that elevates everything to a measure of art. Jane Spence does that here. She’s abetted of course, by Beckie Morris’s minimal but evocative set, Alex Amini’s lived-in looking costumes and Chris Malkowski’s moody lighting. We’re not just halfway there with this one. No indeed. We’re all the way home.

Gary Smith has written about theatre and dance for The Hamilton Spectator for 40 years.