Review: On a First Name Basis (Kay Meek Centre, until May 9)


I am always glad to have an excuse to trek out to West Vancouver (and on timing the drive, it’s really not that much of a trek at all) to the beautifully situated and constructed Kay Meek Centre.

Wanting to know more about this play, I took a look at Canadian playwright and actor Norm Foster’s website: He is amazingly prolific and very popular. I recommend reading the play samples you can find on his site to get an idea about his writing.

Patricia Vanstone and Norm Foster have a long history of working together professionally, and their chemistry shines through in this play. Foster wrote it for Vanstone at her request, as discussed in the talkback, and it is a role that suits her completely. The play is charmingly witty, sometimes uproariously funny, and always thoughtful. Given Foster’s background in theatre, it’s not surprising that the play has excellent pacing and just feels very well-constructed.

My synopsis of the play: a wildly successful, but lonely writer happens, after 28 years of service, to notice his housekeeper and realizes he knows nothing about her. He wants to have a conversation with her, and they end up drinking and talking.

The play is set up so that there are no pop or technological references that would date it, and Foster confirmed this was his intention in the talkback. However, I felt that the rich Anglo man/decades-of-service European housekeeper dynamic does give the play a dated feel, perhaps (if I had to guess) 1970. I can’t envision a household like the one in the play today, but it’s easy to imagine it 50 years ago. The play is none the worse for that, and I am curious to hear how others feel about the implied time period of the play.

Unlike many comedies, this play is not a crazy caper or bedroom farce, but a play that ultimately tackles some heavy issues of love, mortality, and meaning. You have only one more chance to see it in West Vancouver–if you can, I recommend going.

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