Wife Begins at Forty is a comic battle of the sexes
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Saturday, Feb 16, 2013 06:00 am
Wife Begins at Forty
St. Albert Theatre Troupe
Feb. 16, 21-23, 28 and March 1-2
47 Riel Drive
Tickets: $47.50 + GST Visit www.stalberttheatre.com
At one point during the Valentine’s Day opening of Wife Begins at Forty, I wondered if someone had sprayed laughing gas in the Kinsmen Korral.
The packed house just couldn’t stop busting a gut as St. Albert Theatre Troupe cracked snappy one-liners at breakneck pace.
The source of these giggles was the collapse of a 17-year marriage, a beautiful contradiction to celebrate on Valentine’s Day.
Playwrights Arne Sultan, Earl Barrett and Ray Cooney set this irreverent comedy in a 1985 British suburban home. No sex-related topic is free from their poison pen – a.k.a. illicit affairs, vasectomies, transvestites and condoms to name a few.
George and Linda Harper’s stale-dated marriage has hit a rough patch. We first see them arriving home from a late-night fundraiser. He’s dressed in a Superman costume. She’s Wonder Woman.
Slightly sloshed, Linda tries to seduce her husband. But George is a bit of stick-in-the-mud. He fobs off her advances claiming he just wants a good night’s sleep. Instead she’s looking for a night of wild passion and romance.
“And if my lover falls asleep on top of me, I want it to be after, not during,” Linda declares at one point.
Sounds reasonable, however George is more focused on running a business, paying bills and enjoying the ugly floral curtains he purchased at discount.
Linda is heading toward the big 4-0 and her marriage is in a rut. Feeling stagnant, she pulls a Shirley Valentine and asks for a separation.
The couple’s sidekicks are neighbours Betty and Roger. Betty is the quintessential chatelaine married to Roger, a flamboyant over-sexed businessman who enjoys a twice weekly bang-up with a local barmaid. According to Betty, she’s known around the golf club as the “Great British Open.”
Also in the cast is Grandpa Bernard, a rather absent-minded old duffer who completely charms the ladies. In describing his Second World War wedding to the background of air raid sirens he says, “Compared to my wife, Hitler was a pussycat.”
Two other cast members with smaller roles are Leonard (Adrienne McGarrigle), George and Linda’s son, a 16-year-old more interested in soccer matches than his parents’ breakup. And finally, there’s Gertie (Rita Jensen), a sandwich-loving dog that is constantly ushered into the kitchen.
Director Katie Elliott has been blessed with a strong cast. Beverley Luckett-Nafe as Linda is a delightfully funny sexual aggressor and gives her character’s level of frustration a real edge.
Trevor Lawless as the blinkered George has the difficult role of being restrained while slowly unravelling at a controlled speed. And Lawless certainly displayed the chops.
Special kudos to Kelly Aisenstat. Just last week he stepped into the role of Grandpa Bernard, and in such a short time has created a highly likeable, albeit pompous character that captivated the audience.
Mark McGarrigle as Roger was a firecracker and Sandra McCallum’s Betty was a centre of tranquility in a world of wackos.
Finally Elliott, as the director, shows a deft hand at delivering a brisk pace and obtaining strong performances from the actors.
Wife Begins at Forty is one big double entendre. If you’re searching for dinner theatre and laughs, check out the website at www.stalberttheatre.com.
The two-hour plus production runs March 16, 21-23, 28 and March 1-2.