Review: Jonas and Barry in the Home

by Lynn on October 10, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at Theatre Aquarius, Hamilton, Ont. Plays until Oct. 14, 2023

Written by Norm Foster

Directed by Mary Francis Moore

Set by Beckie Morris

Costumes by Sonia Nardi Lewis

Lighting by Tim Rodrigues

Original music and sound by Christopher Stanton

Cast: Anna Chatterton

Jeff Braunstein

Barry Flatman

Part situation comedy, part stand-up only with a partner and all heart.

Barry (Jeff Braunstein) is in a seniors home because his daughter Rosie (Anna Chatterton) thought he would be better off there since she works there. Barry is a man of a certain age. He’s divorced. He was a dentist who strayed and his wife left him. Rosie feels she can keep an eye on him and see that he’s alright. He spends most of his time sitting on the terrace, reading a newspaper. Rosie keeps checking on him and putting a blanket on his legs.

One day Jonas (Barry Flatman) arrives. He is dapper, energetic, curious about the residents, especially the ladies, and makes notes in a little note pad he carries. He made a lot of money when he wrote a love song to his ‘late’ wife, who he adored.

Jonas sees in Barry a fellow traveler, a person with whom he can kibbitz and impress with his zest for life and his jokes. There is also Jonas’ success with women, no matter their ambulatory state.

Is Jonas too good to be true? Does he have secrets? Does Barry have secrets? You betcha, this is after all a Norm Foster play. The humour and banter of these two mature men comes from their experience in life, their wounds, scars and their ability to laugh through it. The humour comes from two characters who are observant, thoughtful, curious and even wise when it counts. Barry talking to Rosie and she to him reveals a sweet love between father and daughter. There is no bitterness that Barry cheated on Rosie’s mother—the mother has gone on to a better life.

Beckie Morris has designed a beautiful terrace for this seniors home that oozes charm. It’s full of greenery, calming colours and comfortable furniture. It’s welcoming. We hear from Rosie that there are plenty of activities, but Barry choses to sit, and do little. That changes when Jonas arrives.

Director, Mary Francis Moore has engaged a terrific cast and has guided them so that their collective theatre experience gently takes the audience into their world. Relationships are carefully, delicately established. As Rosie, Anna Chatterton is the caring daughter and seniors home administrator who puts all her attention in tending to her charges, one of whom is her father. Her tone is buoyant, cheerful and attentive, until we see deeper into her ‘cheerfulness.’

As Barry, Jeff Braunstein is a good-natured curmudgeon. He choses to sit and read because he might have been convinced that that is all he needs to do, until Jonas provides another course of action.

Jonas, a lively, erudite Barry Flatman, rarely sits. He’s too busy scoping out the territory, deciding on what woman he will charm. He keeps flipping his note pad full of information about the residents. What is his secret? What’s his story? Why is he there? He doesn’t act like he should be. And certainly the relationship of Barry Flatman as Jonas and Jeff Braunstein as Barry is beautifully established by these two gifted actors. The one liners are lobbed through the air with ease and finesse. The humour is always realized.  

The beauty of a Norm Foster play is that it’s full of humour, but also an engaging story that slowly grabs you. Jonas and Barry in the Home does that totally.

Theatre Aquarius presents:

Plays until Oct. 14, 2023.

Running time: 2 hours (1 intermission).

Overheard in the audience before the show began:

Senior fella sitting in his seat as a woman, a bit younger, approached wanting to pass:

He: I can’t bend this leg. (as an excuse for not getting up).

She: I can hop over you. I promise not to land in your lap.

He: Go for it.

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