Review: Aunt Agnes For Christmas at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, St. Catharines, Ont.

by Lynn on December 22, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, St. Catharines.

Written by Norm Foster

Directed by Patricia Vanstone

Designed by Peter Hartwell

Lighting by Chris Malkowski

Cast: Cosette Derome

Nora McLellan

Hayden Neufeld

Kate Peters

Kelly Wong

The Foster Festival usually happens at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre during the summer. This is the first time that the Foster Festival scheduled a short winter ‘edition’. Aunt Agnes for Christmas played Dec. 11-22.

Aunt Agnes for Christmas is a sweet, quiet play. George Trimble, his lovely wife Sally and their two children are preparing to celebrate Christmas. George, always cheerful, always optimistic, sells RVs. Sally, his sensible wife, is the mayor of the little town in which they live. Their two children are Brian, who says little but acts as if he’s a diminutive Frank Sinatra and his older 15-year-old sister Melissa who seems a bit bored with her small town life. Melissa reads a lot.

The family experiences some bumps in their happy lives—George loses his job and Sally frets about the warm weather that prevents the town from having ice for the skating rink. They are also visited by a woman who says she is George’s Aunt Agnes. He can’t remember her but she has pictures and seems to know a lot about him. She fits in comfortably, helping around the house, making the children do their chores when it was impossible before. Agnes gets Melissa to reveal that she would like to leave that small town as soon as she is able. Over the course of the play Agnes carries out some pretty impressive things such as making a full cooked dinner appear on the table in minutes, or a wonderful breakfast appear when minutes before there was nothing on the table. If you want to say “Mary Poppins”, I won’t stop you. Mary Poppins is referenced in the lay, but Agnes doesn’t levitate.

This is Norm Foster’s take on making Christmas Miracles. The intention is to make Melissa change her mind about leaving. Truth to tell I thought the play a bit premature in its intention. Melissa is only 15. Where would she go? How? Name me a 15 –year-old who is not bored no matter where they lived.

The play still has Norm Foster’s quirky sense of humour and odd-ball characters and director Patricia Vanstone knows how to realize that humour with finesse. George is almost a man-boy he is so optimistic and simplistic in his outlook on life. But he is played with such buoyant charm by Kelly Wong, we just believe him. George’s wife Sally is played with common sensical good humour by Kelly Wong’s real wife Cosette Derome. Young Hayden Neufeld has the moves of a young (public school) Frank Sinatra and later Elvis. Kate Peters is terrific and natural as Melissa. The sassy, confident Aunt Agnes is played by the sassy, confident Nora McLellan who can float a laugh-line like nobody’s business. The banter between Aunt Agnes and Melissa is effortless and hilarious because of these two wonderful actresses.

The run was short but you will have a better chance of experiencing Norm Foster’s work when the summer edition of the Foster Festival gets into swing beginning in June.

The Foster Festival Presents:

Began: Dec. 11, 2019.

Closed: Dec. 22, 2019.

Running Time:  2 hours.

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