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It’s fine to a have a few laughs on office hours

During the course of one day in the city, in six different offices, the lives of a chaotic group of characters unfold like a spider’s web. Between the domineering mother, the hen-pecked father, a neurotic figure skater, a sex-starved therapist, a down-and-out film director, a one-armed man and an overweight athlete in need of a little help, their stories and others combine to create a dizzying little world.

What happens that fateful day – it’s a case where everybody knows everybody, but don’t know they know everybody – will be revealed on stage starting this week at the Drayton Festival Theatre as Norm Foster’s Office Hours begins its two-week run.

Veteran director Max Reimer – no stranger to Foster’s work, having directed the likes of Self Help, The Long Weekend, Jasper Station, The Last Resort, The Ladies Foursome, Opening Night, The Love List, Looking and The Men’s Foursome – says the playwright has a deft touch in tackling the workplace, spinning stories the audience can relate to.

“There’s just so much drama in an office, and anyone that’s worked in one knows it to be true,” said Reimer.

While the office technology may change over the years, the stories themselves are timeless given the human condition.

“People don’t change that much. Even people who are retired can say ‘that rings true to me,’” he said of the vignettes of office life.

It doesn’t take much to turn the actual goings of many offices into something comedic.

In typical Foster style, the characters are well-formed, and the audience easily relates to them, and to the situations in which they find themselves.

Although living dissimilar lives in the office towers of the big city, Office Hours manages to link the threads between them.

The play follows the workaday routines of an assortment of individuals, each of whom experience the schmoozing, the backstabbing, the overwork and the under-compensation that makes up the daily grind.

In keeping with Foster’s bent, the play makes use of slice-of-life humour, sometimes tackling serious issues while keeping the jokes coming at pace fast enough to cure the skeptical.

Foster’s characters are well fleshed out, they’re complex people, often full of contradictions, just like many of us.

“People are often rationalizing instead of being rational,” notes Reimer. “Norm can just see the humanity and the humour in all these varieties, whether it’s the racetrack, the office or the home.

Neil Foster and Kevin Kruchkywich in a scene from Office Hours, the Norm Foster-penned play now being staged at the Drayton Festival Theatre. [submitted]

“He seems to really enjoy people. He’s just fiercely interested in everybody and everything.”

The play offers up six individual scenarios – almost like sketch comedy – but as the show progresses, the audience starts to see the links, which converge at the end. The pace of the production picks up en route to the conclusion.

Keeping that pace going is the job of the actors.

Neil Foster returns to the Drayton stage having previously performed in Looking, Deathtrap and The Love List. Foster has been on stage with theatres across the country and has also appeared in films and TV series such as Murdoch Mysteries and Private Eyes.

Vancouver-based actress Meghan Gardiner makes her Drayton Entertainment debut. The actress has appeared in a wide variety of productions across the country including Gunmetal Blues, Beauty and the Beast and The Last Five Years.

Appearing in The Men’s Foursome last season, Jacob James will once again show off his quirky comedic timing in this production. In addition to seven seasons with the Stratford Festival, James has performed in theatres all across North America.

Kevin Kruchkywich, who previously appeared in Drayton Entertainment’s productions of Last Chance Romance and Look No Hans!, will also take on a variety of roles. Kruchkywich has worked as an actor and fight director in theatres all over the world.

Seasoned actress Lorna Wilson rounds out the exceptional cast. Wilson’s résumé includes shows such as Another Home Invasion and Bonjour La, Bonjour, as well as Boeing, Boeing and Corpse! for Drayton Entertainment.

“These actors are really at the top of their game. They’re all veterans of comedy,” said Reimer. “It’s really terrific to work with people like this who can really do the work justice.”

The Drayton Entertainment production of Office Hours runs through June 30 at the Drayton Festival Theatre. Tickets are $46 ($27 for youths), available at the box office, online at www.draytonentertainment.com or by calling the (519) 6385555 or toll free at 1855drayton (3729866).

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