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REVIEW: Jonas and Barry in the Home captivates audience

Two friends - Norm Foster, left, as Jonas and David Nairn as Barry in Jonas and Barry in the Home, on stage at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse until May 20.  Photo by Hilary Gauld Camilleri

REVIEW: Jonas and Barry in the Home captivates audience

by Marie Male

ST. JACOBS - Two retirees find a friendship that fortifies them while learning to make the most of life in their retirement home.

Superlative acting and a perceptive script make this small scenario large.

The audience is captivated through every minute of the comedy Jonas and Barry in the Home, confirmed by show-pausing laughter as well as covert gulps and serious sniffles.

Hilarity in the first half combines with clarity and compassion in the second.

Drayton Entertainment has assembled outstanding talent for this production at the St. Jacob’s Country Playhouse.

Prolific playwright Norm Foster, who’s known for fusing humour with heart, also plays the part of Jonas.

David Nairn, longtime artistic director of Theatre Orangeville, plays the role of Barry.

Their history, confidence, talent and insight gather the best from an enlightened script, allowing maximum flows of relatable humour and empathy.

Captivating as well and a natural in her diverse role is Erin MacKinnon, playing Barry’s daughter Rosie in her first Drayton Entertainment production.

Directed by Derek Ritschel, presently artistic director of Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover, the show is a winner all around.

Barry and Jonas meet at Gateway Gardens, an assisted living senior’s residence.  They are on the younger side of the spectrum there, for different reasons.  

Jonas enters as a bit of a swaggering player, over punctuating his verbiage and filling the stage in stature and command. The audience gradually finds more of a sympathetic character in him, as they learn that his intriguing long pauses in speech are not for dramatic effect. Through it all he is tremendously likeable.

A former actor and songwriter, Jonas is also a philanthropist of sorts, declaring to Barry that “people are all like artichokes, you have to cut away the leaves to get to the heart.”

Barry, a retired dentist, first appears on stage as a lost, lethargic soul, questioning why he came to live at “the home.”   

Rosie had encouraged her father to live there, where she is director of life enrichment, though her own life is a contradiction.

Barry is immediately intrigued by Jonas, who won’t have him “sitting around in your pyjamas, waiting for the grim reaper to come.”

The pair tries out what the home has to offer in various activities, discovering that wheelchairs are no impediment to any of them.  

Their antics are funny and healing; Barry is able to give back emotionally both to Jonas and to his troubled daughter. His wrenching tale of his boyhood fear and comfort in the face of a storm is a poignant moment in relation to Jonas.

Set designer Beckie Morris has created an immediately recognizable facade of a seniors residence in all of its efforts at being “alfresco.”

Born in Newmarket, Norm Foster inadvertently landed his first acting job in New Brunswick, as Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey. He had never seen a play. So   intrigued was he  by  the theatre experience that he wrote his first play titled Sinners in 1982, and it was a hit.

It is evident that Foster is a natural, gifted playwright, the dialogue and scenarios ostensibly pouring from his keyboard.

With a keen perception and empathy regarding human nature, Foster has become Canada’s most popular playwright, with over 50 plays in production in Canada and beyond.  

Last year Norm Foster was named an Officer in the Order of Canada.

His play left the multi-aged audience standing, smiling and thoughtful on a rainy opening night, before exiting the theatre.

Jonas and Barry n the Home plays until May 20.

Visit or call 1-855-372-9866 for ticket information.


May 12, 2017


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