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REVIEW: The Melville Boys delivers heart, hilarity

by Chris Daponte

ORANGEVILLE - Audiences may find themselves leaving Theatre Orangeville’s production of The Melville Boys with a peculiar feeling of contentment.

Sure, they will like what they see - it’s an outstanding comedy - but what truly grabs audiences is the way the Norm Foster production unexpectedly, if only fleetingly, makes them realize all that is good in their respective lives.

The play opens with brothers Owen (Jeffrey Wetsch) and Lee (Jamie Williams) arriving at a cottage for a weekend of relaxation.

It quickly becomes obvious that the younger Owen nostalgically embraces the trip as an opportunity to fish, as they once did years ago with their now deceased father. The older Lee, meanwhile, views it as a chance to talk. He is dealing with mortality issues of his own and is agitated his younger brother refuses to discuss or acknowledge his life-threatening illness.

Lee at first seems annoyed with the arrival of locals Mary (Jane Spence) and Loretta (Perrie Olthuis), who very early on catch his brother’s eye. Yet he slowly warms to the visitors and the cathartic discussions they help initiate.

Moreover, the women help to reaffirm - for Lee and Owen as well as the audience - one inalienable truth: the only thing that truly matters in life are personal relationships with others, whether they be short lived or lifelong. It’s a very basic premise, but one that’s too commonly forgotten.

Those simply seeking a few laughs and a good time shouldn’t be turned off by the bigger picture - The Melville Boys will also keep audiences in stitches.

Wetsch, Williams, Spence and Olthuis are fabulous in their respective roles and have remarkable chemistry together.

The set, costumes and lighting, by Eileen Earnshaw-Borghesan, Sara Pasmore and Jason Hand respectively, are all great complements to the production. And the actors seem to have received great direction from Derek Ritschel, who also directs this joint production at the Lighthouse Theatre in Port Dover.

But again, as is the case with almost every Foster play, much of the credit for the success of The Melville Boys rests with its creator.

Foster says the play is so “unrefined” because he “knew nothing” about play writing technique in 1983.

“I wrote from instinct and honest emotion and nothing else,” he says.

And that is exactly what makes the play so appealing and successful almost 30 years after it was written.

Through lighthearted and heart wrenching scenes alike, the impassioned script has the audience emotionally invested in the characters and story from the outset.

The Melville Boys plays six shows a week until Oct. 30. For tickets call 1-519-942-3423 or 1-800-424-1295 or visit



October 21, 2011


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