Review: My Hero

by Lynn on April 27, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

A reading streamed from the Norm Foster Festival

Written by Norm Foster

Directed by Sheila McCarthy

Cast: Jacob James

Gabrielle Jones

Andrew Moodie

Since the pandemic began, prolific playwright, Norm Foster, has written at least six plays. The Norm Foster Festival that usually runs in the summer in St. Catharines, Ont., will certainly have enough new Foster plays to satisfy its audiences when they ‘come back.’ One of the plays, My Hero, had a Zoom reading this past weekend so that Mr. Foster could get a sense of what it sounded like. He will now tweak the play and ready it for a performance, hopefully in the summer of 2022.

My Hero is about Corrine Devine a former lawyer, aged 62, and her son Jim, aged 40. Corrine has been a widow for 31 years. Her husband was a star professional hockey player who was killed in a car accident as he drove home in a snow storm after a game. He wanted to be there in the morning of Jim’s nineth birthday. It was not meant to be.

Jim is now 40, divorced for five years and a high school English teacher. He has lived with his mother Corrine since the divorce because the divorce left him broke and without furniture. Moving home was more comforting.

Corrine and Jim have always been close. She has been his defender and is his sounding board. At present he’s having trouble at school with a student who says that if Jim doesn’t give her an ‘A’ in the class she will accuse him of sexual harassment, because she won’t be able to get into her university of choice. Jim tells the student she didn’t earn the ‘A’ and he could barely justify the ‘C’ he gave her for her work. Jim says simply that he will give her an ‘A’. He will give her other friends an ‘A’, even the boys—he’s an equal opportunity enabler.

Corrine is aghast. Jim explains that no matter if the accusation is true or false, Jim’s career would have been over at the accusation. And his reputation would have been ruined. “An accusation is the end. It sticks to you like fly-paper. Like a bad stink.”  My eyebrows were knitting at how Norm Foster had Jim solve the problem—a huge one in education these days. Then Foster gave Jim this speech: “…and she can be one of the many half-wits that graduate from high school this year. I’m so tired of these entitled kids, not learning a damned thing, calling the shot and getting whatever the hell that they want with a snap of a finger.” Wow!

I can appreciate Jim’s frustration in dealing with this situation, but more than anything I think this is Norm Foster dealing with a serious subject with his pointed dialogue rather than the actual character of Jim. Jim never really addresses anything else in the play with this much ire or frustration. The scene is a thing of beauty because the playwright is finding a way of dealing with this onerous subject.

As Jim, Jacob James invests intense passion and emotion into the speech. I always believe it’s the character speaking but because it seems to come from no where and never comes up again, I think it’s more the playwright than the character telling a truth. Loved it. Jacob James plays Jim with a mix of innocence and knowing intensity and charm. Later when Corrine does something to take his side, Jim knows she might be going too far. Jim has a sense of honour and a need to fight his own battles. Loved that too.

Corrine (Gabrielle Jones) is going through her own changes. She is attracted to Randy Bartholomew (Andrew Moodie), her landscape gardener, who is a widower. They are to go on a date and Jim is surprised, shocked and perhaps jealous of a rival in his mother’s life. Corrine is beautifully played by Gabrielle Jones with a mix of awkwardness at this new situation and irreverence because she has such a flaky sense of humour. As Randy, Andrew Moodie is quiet, sweet, impish—he loves Shakespeare and quotes him often—and determined to win this woman.

Norm Foster delicately reveals the history of Corrine and her marriage to her hockey-star husband and the challenges she had. And we learn of Randy’s life. His life is devoted to his adult daughter, Olivia. Olivia has health issues. She is severely epileptic, is confined to a wheelchair and lives in an assisted living facility. The way Olivia is described she might be developmentally delayed, but she also seems to be wise if not aware.

If Norm Foster does tweak or rework the play,  I hope he would develop the information we hear about Olivia (she never appears in the play). I thought epilepsy was controllable with medication. Why is Olivia in a wheelchair? Is she developmentally delayed? Perhaps clarifying the information about her and if she is actually saying some of the things that Randy says she is saying, would be helpful.

In any case, I’m always glad to see a Norm Foster play, fully formed, or in a first reading, as this one was. And certainly when it is so expertly directed by Sheila McCarthy who massages the nuances, pauses, silences and freighted reactions as she does with this dandy cast.

Look out for this play to be in the 2022 season of the Norm Foster Festival.

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