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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Old Love’ thrives on humor, personalities in Tisch Mills

Critic At Large

The Forst Inn Arts Collective

Program covers.

TISCH MILLS, Wis. (WFRV)

A guy asks to meet a woman again.

“I just buried my husband,” the woman says as the two stand at the dead husband’s grave.

The guy says he figures she would be free. That jolts the woman, who sends the guy off. But soon he returns with an apology and a peace offering, a rose from the grave.

And so the guy’s cockeyed persistence goes in the play “Old Love” by Norm Foster, Canada’s answer to Neil Simon, only with more regular folks.

The Forst Inn Arts Collective has a production of “Old Love” going that features really good performances by players portraying the woman and the guy, Molly and Bud.

Directed with nuance by Cathy DeLain, Vicki Svacina and Bill Fricke roll with a flow of monologues and dual scenes that shape a quirky tale of long-term fascination.

Time moves back and forth to explain how Bud came to asking such a bold question at the grave. And then the Bud-Molly thing moves forward from there, bumpy as heck with plenty of humor.

The setup is this: Molly is the boss’s wife. Bud works for the boss as an on-the-road sales grunt. Molly and Bud first met at an office Christmas party, she stopping by to chat with him as the loner loser. Bud ends up asking Molly why she is unhappy. Way to go, Bud. There is another Christmas party that Molly, then quite tipsy, forgot about. At the grave 25 or so years later, Molly doesn’t remember Bud.

Norm Foster has a knack of creating personalities. Vicki Svacina and Bill Fricke color these personalities with detail in affectionate and often tongue-in-cheek ways.

Bud has a gift for lying at the drop of the hat. Example: In a monologue, Bud talks about watching a professional basketball game with the Milwaukee Bucks on TV, telling the audience he hates basketball. In the next scene, Molly tells Bud she was watching that game, too. “Oh, I love basketball,” Bud says.

Marriage is a character in the play. Bum marriage. Molly’s husband, Arthur, is played with a boss-like My Way aura by Scott Retzak. Along the way, Molly has reason to put Arthur’s feet to the coals. It is interesting to see that chemistry unfold. Bud’s wife, Kitty, was played with sleek, cat-like calculation by Emily Casey in the performance I saw (Corrie Skubal in some coming performances). Kitty presses Bud to step beyond his philosophy that hard work equals success. Kitty has shortcuts she uses on the boss at the office Christmas parties.

Sex is around as a character, too, in a bundle of ways. The main one: Molly’s son, Arthur Jr. (Ian Wisneski), and daughter-in-law, Kendra (Rachel Ziolkowski), offer a primer on grown children’s attitudes about what any unattached parent should not be doing. In short: Old love? Heavenly days!

Performances in The Forst Inn’s theater are up close and personal. Vicki Svacina and Bill Fricke and the others have a kind of steely concentration that makes their characters breathe in the endearing romantic comedy.

***

Creative: Playwright – Norm Foster; director – Cathy DeLain; properties – Julie Ruh; booth operator – David Bundy; producer – Michael Sheeks

Cast:

Molly Graham – Vicki Svacina

Bud Mitchell – Bill Fricke

Arthur Graham – Scott Retzak

Kitty Mitchell/Sandra – Emily Casey, Corrie Skubal

Arthur Jr. – Ian Wisneski

Kendra/Dolores – Rachel Ziolkowski

Claire – Kris Casey

Shirley – Julie Ruh

Running time: Two hours, five minutes

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8-9; 2 p.m. Nov. 10; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15-16

Info: Forstinn.com

***

NEXT: “Mistletoe Musings,” Nov. 23, 29-30, Dec. 6, 8, 12-14.

THE VENUE: The Forst Inn stage is wide and narrow. The space is intimate. Seating is at small tables on two levels in a slight arc in front of the slightly raised stage. To the audience’s rear is the stage director’s space, with light and sound controls. The space is essentially a black box in theater style in the front – with additions: two chandeliers above the audience, a street lamp the seating area and the ambiance of 1920s style elements to the rear in a service area.  A seating/serving area is in the middle of the building, along with a ticketing counter. The bar area out front includes the bar, table seating, more 1920s ambiance and a passage to an art gallery (rotating artists) that is now part of the offerings of The Forst Inn Arts Collective. The building dates to 1868, with assorted lives over the years. For a notable period – 1990 into the 2000s – the place was popular for productions of Little Sandwich Theatre, which Manitowoc attorney Ron Kaminski (deceased 2018) nurtured with a caring hand as artistic director/performer/do-all for a wide array of productions. The present venture is of that spirit.

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