MUCH TO ADMIRE IN THIS MERRY BAND OF TENNIS PLAYERS by joel fishbane
There’s a lot to admire in The Foursome, the dark comedy by Jane Ford that’s being produced by Toronto’s Sterling Studio Theatre Collective: it’s a new Canadian work penned by a woman and featuring an all-female cast. This alone is such an exciting combination that one is tempted to be a lot kinder to the text which is, sadly, not quite ready for prime time. This isn’t to say Jane Ford isn’t talented; merely that audiences are being treated to what is clearly a second draft.
The plot revolves around the impact that peppy Dylan (Caitlin Driscoll) has on a trio of tennis players who need a fourth player. Dylan’s influence leads Tanda (Kirsten Johnson) to gain new self-esteem while Jaz (Kathryn Greenwood) and Kris (playwright Jane Ford) are made to confront dark secrets they’ve been hiding for years. All the ingredients are in place for a comedy that offers opportunities for new and unique glimpses into the modern women….yet, while the play is often funny, the plot meanders and skirts the chance for true drama.
Each character is driven to a life-altering act, but they occur late in the second half, preventing us from seeing the true effect the act has on the character’s life. Nothing has any consequence in Ford’s world – or at least, little consequence beyond the vague menace of a police light. This may be Ford’s purpose, but it comes at the expense of the drama (and the equal potential for comedy).
Director Kyle Labine does fine work using the tiny Sterling Studio, especially given that Ford’s script requires swift transitions from tennis courts to back alleys to a television studio at CBC. The four women in the cast are all up to the task at hand, with each of them doing double or triple duty as secondary characters in Ford’s plot. Caitlin Driscoll especially shines as the duplicitous Dylan, who reveals shades of the sneaky understudy from All About Eve.
Hopefully, this tiny blackbox production is just the start of Ford and her merry band of tennis players; with more work, the comedy could easily become a darling of the Canadian stage. For now, this particular version of The Foursome comes across like an average game of tennis played by a lot of pros.
The Foursome by Jane Ford plays at Sterling Studio Theatre in Toronto until September 28th. For tickets visit www.sterlingstudiotheatre.com.