Volume 9 Week 3

Sunday, Dec. 14 9


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Updated March 18

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Orléans Ward
Bob Monette

(Posted 29/04/04)
East End Theatre's Office Hours an unmitigated hoot
By Fred Sherwin
Orleans Online

A race track manager played by Doug Coburn, tries to fend off jockey Eric Menherz as he begs to get his job back in the East End Theatre production of Office Hours. Fred Sherwin/Photo

What does an overweight jockey, a desperate movie producer, a gay entertainment lawyer, a philandering agent and a Week-at-a-Glance salesman have in common? Ordinarily not a whole lot, but then again Norman Foster's Office Hours is no ordinary play.

Foster is one of Canada's most popular playwrights and Office Hours is one of his funniest plays. Filled with snappy dialogue, witty repartee, hilarious predicaments, and lots and lots of laughs, Office Hours is being presented by the East End Theatre company all this week at the Orleans Theatre.

The production is presented in five separate scenes, each one set in a different office on a Friday afternoon in a nameless Canadian metropolis. While the play is essentially a collection of six independent skits, they are connected by a number of common elements and references, most notably a dead race horse and a romance novelist.

Some of the funnier moments in the play include a scene in which a burned out, once successful Hollywood director tries to pitch an idea for a movie to a pair of Canadian producers that sounds an awful lot like Tarzan, only the Tarzan character is called Trevor and the love interest is Jean and not Jane.

When asked how the Trevor character gets his name, the director points out that he was raised by a colony of apes who found his dead father's passport.

"You have a passport don't you? And your name is in it? Well then...", he answers somewhat incredulously.

Week-at-a-Glance salesman Chris Story does his best to convince therapist Edwige Jean-Pierre of the value of owning the daily planner in a scene from the East End Theatre's production of Norman Foster's Office Hours. Fred Sherwin/Photo

Another wonderful moment in the play occurs when the general manager of a race track (played by Doug Coburn) fires a 200 lb jockey (played by Eric Manherz) for being too large. The two men had grown up together and their fathers were life long friends.

"If you were half the man your father was you wouldn't be firing me," whines the jockey in a thick Scottish accent.

"If you were half the man your father was," retorts the boss in an equally think brogue, "you'd be the right weight, and I wouldn't have to."

The cast is wonderful throughout the play. Especially notable performances were turned in by Tim Robinson who plays Gordon Blaine, the desperate producer looking to get his name in lights, in the second scene; and Sherry Thurig who plays Blaine's partner Francine Majors, but shines brightest as Rhonda Penny in the fourth scene when she finds out that her lawyer son, also played by Robinson, is gay.

My biggest bouquet, however, goes out to Edwige Jean-Pierre who plays three characters: the dragon lady news producer in the first scene; the wife of a philandering agent in the third scene; and a sexually frustrated therapist in the sixth and final scene.

Jean-Pierre's transformations from character to character were so good that I thought it was two different actors playing the roles until I got home and was able to study the program.

Rounding out the cast is Chris Story who plays the philandering agent and a Week-at-a-Glance salesman and EET veteran Peter Frayne who plays a knife wielding, one-armed man in the first scene and Rhonda Penny's husband Lloyd in scenes five and six.

The cast's energy level and comedic timing were both amazing as was their ability to make the various characters they each played distinctive, which is no small task considering the seven member ensemble must each play two characters except for Jean-Pierre and Robinson, who play three characters each.

Kudos also to director David Ferguson for doing a wonderful job in presenting a brilliant script, because the real star of Office Hours is the play's author Norm Foster who in writing a satire on the mores and morals in a modern
9-to-5 world, has created a very funny and tremendously witty play.

Finally, I should make mention of the clean and uncluttered set design and the very quick scene changes orchestrated by stage manager Sally Osborne, her assistant Diane Bennett and stage hands Susan Flemming, Gilles Bellefeuille, Steve Langlois, Claude Laroche and Warren Snider.

Office Hours continues at the Orléans Theatre, on Centrum Boulevard until this Saturday. Curtain times all three nights is at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $12 except for tonight (Thursday) when you can get in for half price.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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