To say Hilda and Sam Fluck were flabbergasted by the return of their two children to the home they thought was now their own is an understatement to say the least.
The couple was anticipating being the sole residents of their middle class home in 1956, the setting for Norm Foster’s play that was typical of the Canadian playwright’s plays known for rapid-fire humour and more serious social issues intermixed.
Hilda’s Yard had the audience laughing in rapid succession as it hit the stage at the Quonta Drama Festival at Elliot Lake’s Lester B. Pearson Civic Centre on Friday evening. The play was the third in a series of four plays vying for top spot in the competition of northern Ontario theatre groups.
The play was performed by the Sault Theatre Workshop with actors Catharina Warren playing an anchor performance as wife Hilda Fluck along with Ron Bird portraying her husband Sam. Their children Gary Fluck, a recently unemployed pizza delivery employee and attempted escapee from a loan shark who he owes almost $390 to for losses in horse betting played by Jarrett Mills and his sister Janey Fluck, played by Wendylynn Levoskin who is fleeing an abusive husband. Rounding out the cast was Gary’s recent love interest and trombone player Bobbi Jakes played by Leah Frost and the semi-sinister loan shark Beverly Woytowich played by Ryan Geick who eventually captures the heart of Janey Fluck.
The play was directed by George Houston along with its crew consisting of stage manager, Penny Martin, lighting crew Phil Jones, Rick Mooney and Evan Levoskin, sound by Fred McKey and Don Kelly, costumes and props by Hanna Ellis, hair, make-up by Tracey Reid, set design by Sandy Houston and set construction by Fred McKey, Rick Mooney, Susan Herranz and Randi Houston-Jones
The play starts with the Fluck couple celebrating the move by their children. Janey, 30, has been married for about six months and living with her husband, while Gary, 33, had been living at home for about 11 years after his release as a World War II veteran, moving out to try out new ventures on his own.
Sam’s plan is to purchase a 21-inch console television so he and his wife can relax and watch episodes of Gun Smoke from the comfort of their sofa without any interruptions from their children. The money they have scraped together for the purchase is the result of money saved from not having to pay for their son’s large grocery bill while he was at home.
On the morning Sam Fluck sets out to purchase the television, wife Hilda is out in the backyard talking to her neighbour Mrs. Lindstrom about life in general. It turns out eventually that her neighbour is a figment of her own imagination.
While she finishes hanging the wash, both children re-appear at the family home to announce they will be staying for an undetermined amount of time. When Sam returns he is equally flummoxed to discover the return of his children.
In another twist, Sam tells his wife that he has lied to his boss at the paper factory where he has put in some 27 years, that he was at a dentist appointment and not out buying a new television. The boss is asking for a note from Sam about the appointment and puts Sam out of sorts about the lie and the possibility he may lose his job.
The plot thickens as both Gary’s girlfriend and his loan shark show up at the family home.
Eventually the issues are worked out through a series of humorous interventions and equally humorous one-liners. The more serious issues raised included spousal abuse, friendships, gambling, love and the dilemma of children having left home only to return, all hallmarks of Norm Foster’s play mix.
The cast performed the play almost entirely without flaw.
It was something adjudicator Laurel Smith pointed out in her public review of the play after it concluded She pointed out that Norm Foster plays can be difficult to perform particularly when lines are lost due to audience laughter. The Hilda’s yard cast managed to overcome that by repeating lines.
She also credited the crew for its props which set the stage for the 1956 era and the director for working with the six-member cast within the limited space of the Fluck garden.
Smith planned to meet with the cast Saturday morning to discuss her opinions of the play and how it was staged. And, as is typical during drama festivals, actors are invited to workshops to talk about their profession.
Saturday evening saw the final play of the four, Exit the King performed by the Gore Bay Theatre on stage. Theatre-goers were also treated to Tempting Providence performed by the Elliot Lake Amateur Theatre Ensemble (ELATE) and Problem Child put on by the Elliot Lake Amateur Theatre Ensemble
ELATE hosted the week of performances.
ELATE planned to host an award banquet Sunday at local Renaissance Senior Centre to announced the winning group which will go on to compete on behalf of the Quonta drama region at the May competition of the Theatre Ontario Festival in London, Ont.