Anyone who’s been on a blind date or a first date, fell in or out of love, or had their heart broken will find something to relate to in Drayton Entertainment’s production of Looking.The Norm Foster comedy features two men, Andy and Matt, and two women, Nina and Val. All of them are searching for love later in life, to some degree.
Heather Hodgson, who’ll be playing Nina, says while the characters are all very different people, they’re still relatable. She’ll be joined by Neil Foster as Matt, Rob McClure as Andy, and Helen Taylor as Val.
“It’s a very funny show, but it’s a very poignant show. It’s very real,” Hodgson said. “There are so many points of recognition throughout where you know exactly what the characters are experiencing. The universals that come with relationships and trying to connect and trying to find love, that sort of thing.”
Nina’s a police officer who’s never been married or had kids. She’s got a little bit of an edge to her because she’s never been serious with a man. She tags along with her friend Val on her blind date, who also brings a wing man.
“Throughout the play she doesn’t believe in relationships, she just believes in casual sex and one-offs,” Hodgson said. “That’s a defense mechanism for her, for what she really wants and hides her desperation and needs. Whereas Val, the O.R. nurse, she has been married, she’s divorced and she wants a relationship. She wants the opposite of what Nina has, which is someone to come home to, someone to talk to, that companionship.”
Then you’ve got Andy who rents out storage units, is a bit of a nerd, but like Val he wants the love and intimacy of a relationship. Matt’s a radio broadcaster and he mirrors Nina’s sentiments about love. Being in their middle-aged years adds another bit of trickiness.
“You’ve got that element as well, all those insecurities that come with trying to find love in your late 40s and early 50s,” Hodgson said. “Not being as young as you used to be, not having the body you used to have and all of those things you used to rely on when you were younger aren’t at your disposal anymore.”
And while some things get better with age, dating isn’t necessarily one of them. Consider how both blind date parties feel the need to bring a friend to get through it.
“In the game of love, some things never change,” Hodgson said. “My character actually says ‘this is supposed to get easier, we’re supposed to learn from our experiences and you’re right back to square one with the same nerves.’”
Hodgson was drawn to this play because of her love for Foster’s plays and good experiences with Drayton in the past, such as in The Love List. It’s also a nice coincidence it’s being directed by Marti Maraden, who she worked with more than 20 years ago in Stratford.
“The characters that Norm has written, they’re just relatable, they’re funny and you feel for each and every one of them even when they have you laughing and in stitches,” Hodgson said. “You just feel those moments when you cringe, you go ‘oh, god, I recognize that.’”
She says the challenge in this type of comedy is to stay true to the character and not just “play for the laughs.”
“That means being vulnerable as an actor,” Hodgson said. “You have to sort of access some things that maybe you’d rather not, but you just have to get some balls and put it out there. That gives it depth.”
Many of the universals of dating are present in the play, like the awkwardness of a first date, the desire to be in a relationship, and the jadedness of coming out of a bad breakup.
But out of this there is hope, and a lot of laughs.
“I think the hope is that people will take away an appreciation for the relationships that they have,” Hodgson said.
Looking runs June 10 through June 27. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Drayton Festival Theatre, online at www.draytonfestivaltheatre.com or by calling the Box Office at (519) 638-5555 or toll free at 1-855-drayton (372-9866).