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The Long Weekend and dinner theatre

In making its first foray into dinner theatre, Conestogo’s Black Forest Inn is going with a heavyweight: Norm Foster. The Long Weekend is one of the prolific Canadian playwright’s funniest.
The comedy has just started a four-week run at the Showplace Dinner Theatre.
It’s a departure from the musical and comedy acts that are the mainstay, said Keith Burton, Showplace’s artistic director.

“We will always be known for our tribute and comedy acts, but felt it was time for a change – to bring some new entertainment options to the area, and give more reason for our most loyal guests to return again and again.”

The Long Weekend drops the audience into the lives of Wynn (Michelle Kreitzer), a psychologist who’s married to Max (Dan Pitman), a lawyer. Wynn’s longtime friend is Abby (Sandra Stewart), who runs a successful clothing store. Her husband Roger (Randolph J. Johnston) is a former math teacher who quit that job to write a screenplay.

The Long Weekend’s comic friction sparks from the fact Max and Roger heartily dislike one another. But they pretend otherwise – at least to each other – because their wives are close friends. Even that relationship, however, isn’t as ideal as it seems at first.

Roger and Abby have gone to visit Max and Wynn for what purports to be a pleasurable weekend at their new house in the country. During the course of the visit, we find out that Max and Abby are having an affair. The couples’ 15-year friendship is about to be put to the test when the sparks fly, the result of truths and deceptions being revealed.

Because this is a Foster play, the revelations offer a chance for laughs, sometimes bitingly so, and a comedy of manners ensues.

It makes for plenty of laughs in the audience, said producer Buddy Brennan, who continues to enjoy the play through several productions and all the rehearsals that come with them. Foster creates situations that are compelling looks into human nature.

“He creates real and believable characters that are fun,” said Brennan. “He’s the most-produced playwright in the country for a reason.”

The characters – foibles, warts and all – are what drive a Norm Foster play. A Newmarket, Ont. native, Foster is one of Canada’s most prolific and celebrated playwrights. He’s written more than 40 plays, all of which have been produced. His body of work includes The Melville Boys, The Affections of May and Maggie’s Getting Married.

DINNER COMES WITH LAUGHS Randolph J. Johnston, familiar to listeners of CKWR 98.5, is Roger in the Showplace Dinner Theatre production of Norm Foster's The Long Weekend, now playing at Conestogo's Black Forest Inn.

Foster himself has said he prefers to write about real people with real issues.

The well fleshed-out characters in The Long Weekend bring the awkward scenario to life – “The situation is so ridiculous, but it’s also so plausible.”

In his cast of four, Brennan said the fact the actors enjoy working together translates into what audiences will see on the newly-revamped stage.

“The actors surprise me every night – they find little nuances to add to the characters. They really are having fun. They spend a lot of time together offstage, and that show in the chemistry onstage.”

The Showplace Dinner Theatre production of The Long Weekend runs Thursday-Saturday (dinner at 6:30, show to follow) until Feb. 25. Tickets for the dinner and show are $53.95 (except for a matinee

Feb. 16, $42.95). The Black Forest Inn is located at 1872 Sawmill Rd., Conestogo. Call 519-664-2223 or visit www.blackforestrestaurant.ca.

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