by Lynn on March 2, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Filmed as part of the Norm Foster Festival.

Written by Norm Foster

Directed by Jane Spence

Set and props, James McCoy

Costumes by Jo Pacinda

Film production by Black Frame Cinema

Film and sound editing by Wes Keller

Cast: Kirsten Alter

Jacob James

David Leyshon

Emily Oriold

NOTE: The Norm Foster Festival, a theatre company in St. Catharines, Ontario, has recently released their first ever feature length film, Wildly Romantic, as a way to continue sharing Norm Foster’s comedic plays with audiences throughout the various restrictions related to the ongoing pandemic. This film has been a huge success so far with viewers tuning in from all over the world.

Four misfits manage to find each other in this tartly sweet film of Norm Foster’s play, full of Foster’s quirky banter and perceptive observations of people trying to fit somewhere.

The Story. Diane is the program director of CFTB, a small radio station in St. Catharines, Ont. She’s mighty ticked off because she discovered that her latest boyfriend, Mickey, who hosted the morning show, was having an affair with the woman hosting the overnight show. In fact, Diane discovered them having sex on the console (ouch) as a particularly long piece of music was playing. She fired them both on the spot. Coincidentally, Sonny Galloway wanders into the radio station looking for a job. He left his job in investments and since he liked music, thought that being a radio host would be a good fit. Katie is the office receptionist who keeps it all working smoothly, ensuring there was coffee and little interruption. Eugene is a hapless lawyer who arrives announcing that Mikey is suing for wrongful dismissal.

The Production and comment. The main office of CFTB is described by Katie (Emily Oriold) as “open concept.” This is not quite accurate. It’s really a big room with Katie’s desk by the entrance door over here and Diane’s (Kirsten Alter) neat desk way across the room over there with some plants here and there. There is a chair in front of Diane’s desk for guests, should she ever have one. There is a modest ‘couch’ by the door and upstage and around the wall in an alcove is the coffee machine, and beyond that is the studio.

Designer James McCoy has designed the office with the minimum of props and other furnishings. There are a few posters on the wall, carpeting on the floor. The room just looks huge and under furnished. Katie saying it’s ‘open concept’ is a gentle joke. When Sonny Galloway (Jacob James) wants to speak to Diane, Katie makes a big deal about announcing him and asking him to go across the room to Diane’s desk. He then asks Diane if it’s ok to ‘come into’ her office. Again, it’s a quiet joke but since it’s repeated later in the play it’s a joke that seems laboured after the first time.

Jo Pacinda’s costumes add a layer to the characters. Katie always wears stylish, bright dresses, shoes with heels but not too high, never pants. Diane wears casual pants, roomy tops and sporty shoes. Sonny arrives looking for a job wearing casual pants, a shirt with no tie and a windbreaker. Eugene (David Leyshon) initially wears tan pants, a brown sports jacket, white shirt, tie and tan shoes.

Each character is a misfit in their own way. Emily Oriold plays Katie with a sense of professionalism that tends to get away from her (I mean Katie) so that at times Katie seems officious. She is really trying to protect her boss, Diane, from being bothered, and that’s part of the humour.  As Diane, Kirsten Alter has a veneer of sass and smarm about her. She is not lucky with men and has either thrown them out of her apartment or her life. Mikey is the latest failure. As such Diane equates all men as ‘bovine sputum’. Diane views each man as suspect and treats both Sonny and Eugene as men who would cause her disappointment so she gets in her points before they have a chance. When Diane meets Sonny you sense she’s found her match. Jacob James plays Sonny as a man with painful secrets that he releases slowly. Sonny matches Diane barb for barb but with a thoughtfulness and kindness. He is resourceful and determined. Jacob James plays him with humour, a subtle smile and curiosity. It’s quite lovely watching the sparing of Kirsten Alter’s Diane and Jacob James’ Sonny. David Leyshon as Eugene is so hapless, so formal in his presentation, so proper in his language and seemingly without subtext that you are totally charmed by him. His awkwardness as Eugene is endearing. We know it and so does Katie.

Jane Spence directs with care in establishing all the individuality of the characters and then as characters interact and relationships are formed. She uses the big space of the set to establish the humour in the various situations; Katie walking determinedly across the large office to come right up to Diane’s desk to tell her that Eugene is way over there to see her and Diane asks what does he want, and Katie marches back to ask him. The joke is obvious but we have the patience for it to play out.

Norm Foster’s play is full of his trademark linguistic ‘dancing’. “Bovine sputum” I think might be a phrase that will live long after one sees the film. Wildly Romantic is also full of the wisdom of having lived life and observed its foibles and follies. Foster has created characters who are wounded in their own way and who find their ‘soul mate’ who help them heal.   

Film produced by the Norm Foster Festival.

Now streaming and available on demand

Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

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