Photos: Orillia Opera House
Contributor Andrew Wagner-Chazalon sings the praises of the Orillia Opera House’s latest show, Doris and Ivy in the Home
Orillia Opera House audiences have come to expect superb professional plays every summer, but this season opened with a particularly rare treat. Not only has the company returned to a full season, but it is opening with a world premiere from one of Canada’s best playwrights.
Doris and Ivy in the Home is a new play from comic master Norm Foster which opened in Orillia on June 29.
Artistic director Jesse Collins secured the coup, thanks in part to his long-standing relationships with Foster. The two have worked together and been friends for 40 years, and Collins often includes at least one Foster play in the Opera House’s summer theatre season – much to the delight of Orillia audiences.
Doris and Ivy Penned by Canada’s Top Playwright
Foster is by far Canada’s most prolific and widely produced playwright, with more than 75 plays to his credit, including The Foursome, On a First Name Basis, Outlaw, and his Los Angeles Drama-Logue award-winning The Melville Boys. He is an officer of the Order of Canada.
Collins had originally planned to open this summer’s season with Foster’s Jonas and Barry in the Home, a riotous tale of two men who form an unlikely friendship while living in a retirement residence. Then Foster sent him a new script, and Doris and Ivy in the Home became the season opener.
Far from just a gender-reversed retelling of the earlier play, Doris and Ivy is a fresh story with three fascinating characters.
Retirement Home Capers
Ivy Hoffbauer (played by Orillia newcomer Terry Cherniack) lives in a retirement home in Canmore. In her youth she was an internationally competitive skier until she caught an edge in a televised World Cup race, wiping out so spectacularly that she wound up leaving her native Austria in shame. She is smart and focused but has lived a quiet life in Canada… until she meets Doris.
Doris Mooney (Debbie Collins) is brash, loud, and irrepressible. A retired prison guard, she grates on Ivy when they first meet, but the two quickly form a strong bond. Collins (no relation to director Jesse) is a familiar face to Orillia audiences, who last saw her in 2019 in the hit comedy Where You Are. She brings a powerful energy to the stage which is perfect for the role of Doris.
Cherniack does a superb job of capturing the quiet intensity of Ivy; she may be reserved, but it’s clear from the start that she is no pushover.
Fast, Witty, and Fun
The two ladies are joined by Arthur Beech, played with well-humoured reserve by Daniel Karpenchuk, another Opera House newcomer. Arthur seems a flirt at first, but it soon turns out he has a purpose: to be in love one last time.
The three of them trade banter – fast, witty lines are Foster’s stock in trade, and he doesn’t disappoint in this play – but they also wrestle with deeper questions of purpose and mortality. Each has missed out on something in life: living in what may well be the last home they ever reside in, they are forced to question whether it’s too late to still find the things they’ve missed.
Collins’ direction is light-handed, wisely allowing the script to drive the play. There is also some deft costume work by resident designer Alex Amini, particularly in the second act where costume changes subtly signify not only the changing seasons but also changing emotional states of the characters.
Theatre-starved No Longer
Doris and Ivy in the Home is light, funny, and delightful. It’s a fabulous way for theatre-starved audiences to celebrate the return of live theatre.
It is a co-production with Upper Canada Playhouse and is running in Orillia until July 15. The summer season continues with Driving Miss Daisy from July 20 to August 12, and a Norm Foster classic Come Down From Up River August 17 to September 2.
Visit the Orillia Opera House website at www.orilliaoperahouse.ca for further details and tickets.
Riley Recommends: Why not make a weekend or mid-week break of your visit to the Orillia Opera House to see Doris and Ivy in the Home?
For great ideas as to the best places to stay in Orillia, check out LuxuryOrillia’s article, Enjoy Great Stays @ the Top Hotels in Orillia. And check out our feature article on the Top Restaurants in Orillia for great dining experience ideas.
Enjoy the show!
Andrew Wagner-Chazalon is the managing editor and CEO of Dockside Publishing, and writes about the luxuries to be found in Muskoka and throughout Central Ontario.
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