Review: HILDA’S YARD (Foster Festival in St. Catharines)

by Lynn on July 25, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, St. Catharines, Ont.

Written by Norm Foster

Directed by Jim Mezon

Designed by Peter Hartwell

Lighting by Chris Malkowski

Cast: Daniel Briere

Norm Foster

Darren Keay

Erin MacKinnon

Patricia Vanstone

Amaka Umeh

Hilda Fluck (you read that right) spends a lot of time in her backyard. There is the endless washing to hang out to dry.  She has an ongoing conversation with an unseen neighbour who offers her companionship in a quirky way.  There is nature to sit and appreciate. There are the plans Hilda makes with her husband Sam now that he children are grown and moved away. Until those children begin returning to the nest. Son Gary arrives with his girlfriend and a scary dude who is determined to collect on a gambling debt. Then there is their whiny daughter Janey who comes home when her short marriage ends and she has no clue on how to solve that problem except to come home to complain. The house and that yard get really busy.

Norm Foster’s plays deal with everyday problems with which we can all identify: memory loss, the need for independence, long festering hurts, renovation hell and now finding that adult kids just can’t cope with life and come home to mommy and daddy to help them solve their problems. As always Foster handles it all with humour and wit.

In Hilda’s Yard most of the grown up humour comes from Hilda (Patricia Vanstone) and Sam (Norm Foster) although truth to tell, I didn’t find the premise and the resultant humour as raucous as other Norm Foster plays I’ve seen there. Perhaps it’s because the two children are so inept and witless. Much humour comes from their being rather dim about the world. I guess it’s possible for two bright parents to have dim children.

It’s rather refreshing seeing, Patricia Vanstone and Norm Foster, two theatre veterans acting on stage. Vanstone is a stalwart director of many Foster Festival productions. Norm Foster is of course the Festival’s namesake since he creates the plays that draw us to St. Catharines.

Vanstone is no-nonsense as Hilda. She is direct, patient, funny and has an almost distracted sense about her. She neatly hangs the wash on the contraption that can handle a lot of laundry (there is no clothes line). I note that there are a lot of tea-towels and little else that go up on that drying thing. There are only two people in that household now but sooooo many tea-towels for drying dishes??

Norm Foster is taciturn as Sam. His delivery is deadpan and his timing is bang on. Sam is retired and now just wants to watch his newly purchased television and enjoy his time with his wife. His returning children put a wrench in that idea. Both Vanstone and Foster are perfect foils for each other. The whole cast is good as well.

Jim Mezon directs this with a sure hand and a sense of the humour of the play. I thought it rather inspired to have characters make surprise entrances over the fence. Much is made of this way of arrival.

Produced by the Foster Festival.

Began: July 10, 2019.

Closes: July 26, 2019.

Running Time:  2 hours, 15 minutes.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.